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Defining what “conservative” means

As the campaign season heats up and more and more moderate Gumby candidates draw conservative opponents in GOP primaries, the question is again and often raised, “What’s your definition of a conservative?”

The long version definition is clearly outlined in a little book written by late Sen.  Barry Goldwater titled “Conscience of a Conservative.”  But for a short summary, this quote pretty much sums it up…

“I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is “needed” before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible.”

For a more direct definition of what a conservative is, I’ve always found the following by former Reagan adviser Lyn Nofziger to be helpful…

“Allowing for differences I would define a conservative, first as one who believes in the Constitution as it is written. That takes care of free speech, freedom of religion, the right to petition the government, the right to keep and bear arms and, in the words of William O. Douglas in one of his saner moments, ‘the right to be let alone.’

“Second, a conservative believes in small, limited government at every level. Along with this he believes strongly in individual responsibility. That is, a person or a family should take care of itself and turn for help to government only when all other means have been exhausted. It also means that society, before government, has a duty to take care of its own. Government should be a resource of last resort.

“Third, a conservative believes taxes should be levied for the purpose of financing the limited responsibilities of government such as providing for the common defense, catching and incarcerating criminals, minting money and filling potholes. Taxes should not be levied for the purpose of redistributing wealth.

“That’s about it.

“I know there are those who say a conservative should be pro-life, which I am, but I’m not sure a person has to be that to qualify as a conservative. Nor am I sure that a person must be opposed to pornography, which I am. In both cases there are questions of individual rights and responsibilities which are arguable.

 “One other thing I think a conservative believes is that the parents, not government, are and should be responsible for the upbringing and behavior of their children.”

Amen.

So if you vote to raise taxes, grow government, limit individual rights and interfere unconstitutionally in the free market…you ain’t no conservative.

In other words, their protestations to the contrary, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R&R-Partners), Senate Minority Leader Moderate Mike Roberson, and Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey may all be Republicans…but ain’t one of them a true conservative.

May they all lose in primaries!