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What is a Conservative?

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Some reflections from the area's most beloved conservative curmudgeon

As a political junkie I have been trying for the past several years to figure out just what is a conservative. Being of the Republican persuasion, I have for some time relied on a few loose principles that like-minded people accepted as a basis for a political party. Here are some of them.

Local government usually is a better fit as it more nearly represents the views of my neighbors.

Party affiliation doesn’t mean all that much unless you live in a place that has a ‘machine’ (I can easily recall the Pendergast (Democrat) machine in Kansas City of which Harry Truman was a part).  And then in my earliest days, the Republicans had a machine in Chicago, Cook County to be specific. Local government seems to be more manageable unless there is a warped sheriff, as has happened too many times. 

As we move up (or down) the ladder of government we come to the state level, where ideology begins to have more effect. Evenly balanced legislatures seem to do less harm. Whatever party that has no trouble dominating generally can’t help going over the cliff of reason, often. It would seem that some of the dumbest people can get elected to office simply because they say what the voter wants to hear. That they are incapable of thinking is another matter. We have had such representation in Boise over the years, the kind that makes you shake your head.

And then there is the Federal government. Perhaps our concerns are the result of a seemingly endless stream of legislation. Governing  apparently requires the effort of thousands every waking and sleeping moment of the day.  

When trying to define something I often refer to my huge dictionary where, on page 216, there are a couple of definitions of a conservative. You need to be “inclined to keep up existing institutions and customs, opposed to radical changes... MODERATE or cautious.” The next definition also includes “MODERATE and cautious.”

Whoa! To the really hard-line right fighters, moderate also means compromise. The very thought of conceding anything is abhorrent. Therein lies the problem. Life is a compromise. If you think you don’t have to give to get, you are going to not only be miserable, but make all who associate with you miserable. 

So if you are upset with the status quo, as are apparently some rhinos in the Central Committee, tell us just what is it you want to change other than what the Democrat presidency has inflicted on us. 

Contrary to what Rush thinks, being a moderate is a sign of conservatism. A true conservative avoids extreme positions and is also concerned with the interests and positions of others. So those who wear the badge of Conservative so proudly on their chests need to do more than spout a few meaningless slogans. They need to clearly define what it is they would change that doesn’t destroy systems that work for all the people. 

Those who apparently are going to great lengths to replace some of our sitting representatives need to be explicit about what the incumbents are doing that is wrong and why they think they are right. Waving the Constitution is like flag waving—anyone can do it. Owning a cook book doesn’t make you a good cook. 

Sort of like Ron Paul and his contention that the Federal Reserve system has to go. Okay, what will you create to accomplish what any central banking system does? You don’t like the Internal Revenue System (who does?). How else would you generate the revenues any government requires? None of this is to indicate any system in place can’t be improved. The General Services Administration is proving this in their current DVD series. 

So one might conclude that a true conservative is one who works within the system (cautious) to correct the flaws seen by most people, bearing in mind that all people don’t see the same flaws you do. What to some in a serious defect is not seen that way by others. 

One of my pet expressions pertains to catching a run-a-way horse, aside from providing no food. There are two ways. One, you ride wildly toward him with a lasso flying. If you are lucky you might throw the loop successfully. 

On the other hand you might ride up alongside the horse, match his speed and calmly drop the rope around his neck. That is how a moderate might do it. A wild-eyed conservative would probably preach to the horse about the evils of jumping the fence and wave the horse owner’s manual at him. 

The word of the day is “GET REAL.” A true conservative recognizes the great things about our society and, instead of deploring the bad things, works through the system to get them fixed, to the extent the majority want them fixed. Being negative makes some people feel better but it is the positive side that produces results. An effective conservative feels there are too many regulations, that there is little or no common sense among the liberals, that reasonable expectations should be the rule, that they are open-minded and tolerant without being a pussy cat. They also find being a ‘right-fighter is futile and doesn’t get the job done. 

So if some candidate doesn’t fit your mold there are two choices (1) go with the winner or (2)  run for the office yourself. And good luck to you.


 Paul Rechnitzer is a well-known local conservative and author, and a practiced curmudgeon. You can reach him at [email protected]

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Paul Rechnitzer Paul Rechnitzer Transplanted 30 years ago, Paul is a retiree from the oil business who knows no other place he would rather live and breathe local history.

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Politics, Say What, conservative, Republican

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