6 Shades of Conservative

Republican BalloonsWhile the mainstream media tends to associate all conservatives with Republicans and vice versa in order to save press space for more nuanced coverage (apparently America is in greater need of an in-depth understanding of ‘twerking’) one shouldn’t assume that all conservatives have the same values and politics. In understanding where I fit in Red-State America I’ve been able to identify six groupings of conservative thought.  Know any others?

Neoconservative (Neocons): Neocons are generally known to be the foreign-policy hawks. They emphasize a realist foreign policy that assumes the worst about the world and that America should primarily be concerned with her own security and interest. Famous Neocons include Donald Rumsfield, Dick Cheney and other architects of the War on Terror. Neoconservatives will generally value security over just about any other political value, reasoning that a stable society cannot be had without safe borders and a strong military.

Progressive Conservatives: These are the populist conservatives who believe in Mom-and-Pop America, the Common Man and generally look at American society today as being very unfair towards the little guy. However, they don’t exactly want the government to fix the problem like a populist Liberal. They are the Reagan Republicans who look at government as being the problem. They want to use small government, fiscal responsibility and traditional values to get America back on track. I’m gonna be a little harsh and say that populist conservatives generally have a mistrust of all things government yet think they know how to figure out the entire political system pretty simply.

Progressive conservatives tend to be very much in favor of social reform, social justice and a strong penal system. However, they’re not all going to be focused on making life miserable for the downtrodden and poor. At times, they can sound like social conservatives but progressive conservatives often reflect present social values (e.g. libertarians) unlike social conservatives that focus more on religious or traditional values.

Constitutional Conservatives: They love the Constitution; practically worship it. While social conservatives make up a strong portion of the Tea Party, the TP got a lot of its animating force from these people who hew to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. This doesn’t mean that they have the best interpretation of the Constitution it only means that for them the Constitution is the defining standard of all things political. Additionally, Constitutional conservatives believe they know (and may be the only ones who know) what the Founding Fathers intended the Constitution to mean. They’re often very well-versed in American history and are very aware of the writings of the Founding Fathers beyond just the Constitution. They would look to the Constitution first in order to determine the policy priorities and the rightness/wrongness of government actions.

Such a thought process can be very good and proper for understanding American politics and I wish more people would take it. However, a problem exists in that Constitutional Conservatives usually emphasize the fact that there’s only one interpretation to the Constitution when in reality centuries of Supreme Court rulings demonstrate otherwise.

Social Conservatives: Social conservatives are also known by the more pejorative title of the religious right. These are people who are animated by something other than their political beliefs in making political choices. What I mean by that is that their religious beliefs or personal philosophies, which are usually in line with what is considered to be traditional American values, are going to be what determines their political choices. Leaders in the social conservative movement are usually in the evangelical Christian right and are a very strong force in the conservative movement.

Fiscal Conservatives: Fiscal Conservatives are also a large portion of the Tea Party movement and are known for their budget hawkishness. They want a stripped-down government with controlled spending and limited government regulation. Such individuals as Paul Ryan and groups like the American Taxpayers Association have given the anti-tax element of the fiscal conservative movement a very strong voice and presence in Washington DC. In fact, fiscal conservatives probably make up the dominant wing of the Republicans currently in power in Congress.

Now this isn’t to say that there aren’t others, or that we don’t jump between groups at a given moment.  What I am trying to make clear is that there is a very diverse range of values and political priorities within conservative America, which makes for some pretty spirited debate on the direction of the Republican Party in particular. Have you found your political home within one of these groupings?  Do you have any others to add?  Let us know in the comments below!


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