If I had the stamina, I could write volumes answering this question. Make college professors cringe by filling three blue books or so. I learned to be a pretty decent chess player, a fair debater if asked, an excellent computer programmer although I never did it professionally, and an above average furniture salesman. I did not learn to be a conservative. This is because it is not a skill, rather a decision. That is what makes politics a science, but the one of the most, if not the most inexact sciences in the history of man. Whatever your juxtaposition on the political continuum, it is ultimately one’s personal decision. You simply study the facts and listen to the real politicians sell their ideas and decide what you agree with the most. With so much media coverage on the national debt in the early 1980s and the Democrat party being stigmatized as the “tax and spend” party, a popular campaign ad before the conventions even nominated anyone was “Vote Republican for a Change.” This was the first directing sign that pointed me to Ronald Reagan and the conservative platform. But what does it really mean to be a conservative and for that matter, why is it a good thing as an American?
First of all, many modern-day politicians and ordinary citizens for that matter call themselves conservatives, but are actually reactionaries in practice. Reactionaries want to take it beyond mainstream conservatism and take us back to the past. Reactionaries are reactive, rather than proactive. Some continuums place another hash mark to the right of reactionary and label it Radical Right. One reason for this was the notion that many people of the Jewish persuasion were very conservative thinkers, but still would not vote Republican because the Republican Party is generally the party on the right and Adolph Hitler was on the right. But the true continuum is not linear but circular and “the fringe” sits in the back of the circle flanked by radicals on the left and reactionaries on the right. Radicals often stand for the same things for different reasons. For example, a reactionary would shut down a railroad; “we didn’t need it then and we don’t need it now.” A radical would shut down a railroad;” we have air buses now; railroads are obsolete.” I am definitely a conservative and not a reactionary.
In one of the Republican debates, Donald Trump was asked the question and he gave the most sophomoric answer on the books citing the root word as “conserve” and that he conserves resources and ideas. This can cause a lexiconical argument; if you conserve resources are you a conservative or a conversationalist? The infamous Trump is neither. Support for spending cuts, conserving money…we’re getting there. Limited government, i.e. conserving user of power…getting warmer.
The most fundamental definition of conservative I was exposed to in eighth grade was “one who supports preserving the status quo.” Almost there, but that would imply a “do nothing” politician; a Zen enthusiast who just wants to accept and leave things as they are. But then conservatives would not be on a mission to repeal Obamacare, which for better or worse is now the status quo. Actually, the political continuum is measured relative to the status quo. For example, Vladimir Putin is Radical Left by American standards where we never had Communism and hope and pray we never do. But Putin is Reactionary Right by Russian standards as he is a throwback to Russia’s recent past, Soviet Communism. In most countries of the world, it is necessary to be a liberal if you believe in freedom. But in the United States of America, the status quo of which the continuum is measured is our Constitution. Being a constitutionalist is a prerequisite to being an American conservative. We are far from a perfect nation, but we are the best Earth has to offer. We are not the only nation in the world with a constitution, but we are the only nation in the world with a constitution that clearly defines the inalienable rights of the people; other constitutions are merely an owner’s manual for how the nation’s government operates. For Americans, the Constitution is located on the conservative hash mark and a true conservative will never tarry too far to either side of the Constitution. We have to change with times and we have leeway to go to the slight left without crossing into liberal territory and to the slight right without going overboard to the reactionary fringe. When we must change, we must be sure both the change and the agent for change or method check with the Constitution. All elected Presidents sworn in take an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States so help [me] God.” A liberal will always have a harder time with this than a conservative due to the juxtaposition of the Constitution on the continuum. I believe my devotion to our great Constitution is what makes me a conservative and justifies my decision to be right of the fulcrum on the continuum.