(The New American) -- by John F. McManus --
...What is it that those who call themselves conservatives are trying to conserve? In years past, some would have insisted that the term “conservative” had been defined by Russell Kirk in his The Conservative Mind (1953), or by Senator Barry Goldwater in his Conscience of a Conservative (1963). Both of these seminal volumes are still admired in most CPAC circles, and the names of both men are regularly invoked at CPAC gatherings. But the direction toward which many current conservatives have been steering the movement cannot reasonably be equated with the principles enunciated by Kirk and Goldwater.
Among the essential hallmarks of conservative thought set forth by Dr. Kirk are belief in transcendent truth — the Divine Law and the Natural Law — as well as the idea that one has an obligation to posterity and futurity to uphold the Christian moral order bequeathed to us by our nation’s Founders. He also maintained that the great conservative minds fought against the prevailing “liberal” trend of our age that seeks to centralize and concentrate all power into the hands of the unitary state. He was a firm believer in the constitutional principle that the federal government has been granted minimal powers that are, in James Madison’s words, “few and defined.” Along with our Founding Fathers, Kirk saw imperial ambitions and foreign entanglements as mortal dangers to our Republic.
Senator Goldwater, likewise, hewed to a philosophy that adamantly opposed the federal government’s unconstitutional intrusions into virtually every area of our lives, and its usurpations of personal, local, and state responsibilities. And he saw increasing national indebtedness and the squandering of ever more of our citizens’ wealth by Washington, D.C., as a deadly trend that must be reversed. Over the past few decades, however, many “conservatives” not only joined the liberals in praising Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, but enthusiastically endorsed the federal government’s accelerated wasteful spending and egregious usurpations.
Already existing confusion about who is and who isn’t a conservative grew when the two Presidents named Bush and their appointees were regularly labeled “conservative” by the media. Both Bushes openly supported larger government, a soaring national debt, and a deepening of international entanglements. They could hardly identify with what Kirk and Goldwater had written years earlier. Journalists Fred Barnes, William Kristol, David Brooks, George Will, the late Robert Bartley, Charles Krauthammer, and numerous other pundits have claimed, or have been awarded, conservative status while generally adhering to and expounding political, economic, and moral principles that one would not associate with traditional conservative thought. Among politicians, Newt Gingrich leads the pack for talking the conservative talk but refusing to walk the conservative walk. It ought to be obvious that jamming such an amalgam of books, authors, political leaders/staffers, journalists, academicians, and others under a single conservative umbrella can’t be done.
It appears there simply is no longer any agreed-upon definition for “conservative,” just as there isn’t one for “liberal.” Yet there is need for a label to identify traditionally minded Americans, one that can substitute for the watered-down appellation “conservative.” We suggest “constitutionalist,” signifying adherence to the document created by our Founding Fathers, the one overwhelmingly accepted by the first Americans, and one so cavalierly sworn to by so many. In other words, go to the U.S. Constitution for what Americanism means and skip using “conservative” to describe anyone.
In the Constitution of 1787, one finds strictly limited government, non-intervention in the affairs of other nations, and — because of a near-total absence of restraints on the American people — conditions allowing for more individual freedom than mankind had experienced in all of history. This is what conservatism once meant, but not anymore. In fact, even though the Constitution still exists, and even though government officials, military leaders, and others solemnly swear to adhere to its provisions, the document is regularly ignored by most — even by conservatives.
Over the past several decades, while the conservative label has been applied almost willy-nilly, the stage has been set for something else to emerge. That something else is neoconservatism. Happily, this brand of political thinking has been narrowly defined — by none other than the man who is widely touted to be its “godfather.” In his 1995 book Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, the late Irving Kristol wrote:
It describes the erosion of liberal faith among a relatively small but talented and articulate group … (which gradually gained more recruits) toward a more conservative point of view: conservative, but different in certain respects from the conservatism of the Republican party. We … accepted the New Deal in principle, and had little affection for the kind of isolationism that then permeated American conservatism.There you have it, and it comes from the godfather himself. Neoconservatives seek unconstitutional, socialistic big government (à la Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal) while they champion America’s meddling in the rest of the world’s affairs, even to the making of war. They have succeeded in making repugnant any slight leaning toward, or even mention of “isolationism.” Change that once-useful term to “non-intervention in the affairs and wars of other nations” and most Americans will nod in agreement. But many have been scared away from such good sense by fear of being labeled an “isolationist.”...
According to their own leaders, neoconservatives want government programs to deal with any and all problems, meaning they want a larger and more intrusive and socialistic-style government. In keeping with their desires, they favor spending enormous sums of money, some of it financed by onerous taxation and much of it acquired through borrowing. Increasing the National Debt, a necessary consequence of outlandish spending, has been a regular item in the neocon agenda...MORE...LINK