Another overused (and ill-defined) word: ‘Conservative’

Having switched to PBS, where apparently they have a larger vocabulary, I’m not hearing "presumptive" so much, so that’s good.

What I am hearing to an absurd degree is the term "conservative," and always used either with no defining context, or with a contradictory context.

For instance — one of the talking heads was going on about how McCain had not yet been declared the winner of his home state some 90 minutes after polls closed (the irony was that McCain was declared the winner while this guy was talking), and saying that exit polls indicated it was because of self-described "conservative" voters.

And what do they mean by "conservative?" Well, apparently no one thought to ask them — which I would certainly do before turning around and reporting that they were conservative, because the word seems to be so malleable and subjective these days.

Anyway, we were told that Mitt Romney was leading among people who wanted to deport all the illegal aliens. Of course, those people are not conservatives — conservatives are sensible folk who don’t entertain fantasies — so that was apparently an unrelated phenomenon.

Then they spoke of voters who were opposed to abortion. OK, I thought, now we’re getting somewhere…. except that these voters were going, NOT for the senator who’s been strongly pro-life his entire public life, but for the ex-governor of Taxachusetts whose position on abortion depends upon what office he’s running for at a given moment. What on Earth is with these people?

Basically, I think newsfolk — so many of them being self-reported "liberals," whatever they mean by that — tend to be very gullible and just take people at their word when they say they’re "conservatives," sort of the way they tend to lump people into the realm of the unintelligible if they happen to be evangelicals (hence their constant surprise whenever Mike Huckabee gets a few votes).

16 thoughts on “Another overused (and ill-defined) word: ‘Conservative’

  1. dave faust

    Brad, anyone who depends upon the MSM for a valid and accurate definition of conservatism is not going to get it. Surely you know that and aren’t surprised by it. Given that MSNBC.NBC.CBS.ABC.CNN are completely and unashamedly in the tank for liberalism, their cause is advanced whenever they can get away with defining conservatives in one dimension. This is precisely why we get the MSM one-issue characterizations ~ they make conservatives look strident, wild-eyed and completely narrow minded. Which we aren’t, but again, anyone who depends upon the CBS for their information is of course just stupid enough to believe we are.
    Beyond that however, what “context” are you looking for? If one accepts the traditional and ‘technical’ definitions of conservatism, what context does one need? You know the drill, you’ve certainly spent enough time ridiculing those of us who believe them ~ traditional conservative floorboards include individual freedom (pursuit of happiness, property rights, capitalism), limited scope and reach of government (with appropriately sized taxes), strong defense and national security (with border security as a part of it), sanctity of young/old life, adherence to the constitution in all three branches of government (meaning constitutionalist judges who don’t legislate and legislators who don’t mandate lousy toilets or neon light bulbs).
    If you accept those general tenets as the guiding principles of conservatism, what context do you need? Can we not just hold a candidates’ record up to the list and decide for ourselves whether or not he’s a conservative? I really don’t care what we call anyone…names are much less important than substance. And I certainly don’t look around feverishly for context (whatever that is) whenever I hear Tim Russert call Romney a fiscal conservative. I bring my own context: I know what I believe and I can figure out whether Romney or McCain agree with what I believe. David

  2. dave faust

    As I think about it, I shouldn’t have mentioned ‘capitalism’ as a pillar of personal freedom. Freedom in this country means freedom to be a communist if one wants. I guess freedom really is just the ability to pursue happiness. Just a little clarification there. I know you’ll soon be intentionally misconstruing, contorting and ridiculing everything I said in my first post, so I just wanted to change that little part of it so as at least to remove it as a possible point of ridicule.
    One needn’t believe in capitalism in this country, if communism, communalism or state-mandated mediocrity are what blow ones’ skirt up. David

  3. Brad Warthen

    Most of your definitions fit pretty well, dave, but not the first part. Libertarian principles — individual liberties, etc. — are, in basic poli sci terms, liberal.
    Keeping well-ordered borders are indeed a conservative principle, which is why McCain was willing to risk (and very nearly lose) the nomination to pass comprehensive legislation to secure that. Wanting in addition to that to expel people who play a continuing, very large role in our economy is not conservative; it’s reactionary, nativist, culturally atavistic and various other things, but “conservative” is not the word for it.

  4. dave faust

    I disagree. McCains’ bill was a horrible thing that created huge problems rather than solving any. Thankfully a majority of people in this country made their opinion of it known to their legislators so as to kill it. I only wish that its’ defeat had done more political damage to McCain than it apparently has. I am frankly surprised and very disappointed that he’s doing so well in the primaries. But, there ya go. David

  5. Lee Muller

    Libertrarians practice Classical Liberalism.
    Modern liberals long ago gave up on trying to change opinion through education and discussion, and joined with socialist to impose their agendas on an unwilling electorate. Liberals with a complete ideological framework remained libertarians.
    Liberals with just a piecemeal set of hot issues ended up joining forces with socialism to impose their agendas on an unwilling population. In the 1920s, they created fascism, which the liberals thought was the expression of their liberalism of good works projects.
    Other issue liberals just went all the way over to communism.

  6. H.M. Murdock

    So-called “conservatives” lambasted Huckabee and declared him a “liberal.”
    Now, the same so-called “conservatives” whine and cry that Huckabee is splitting the “conservative” vote with Richy Rich, preventing Richy from beating Juan McCain.
    The “conservatives” use the term to fit whatever definition best suits their purposes at any given time–much like the Bush Administration uses “terror.”

  7. rick campbell

    …unfortunately lee muller looks like a product of the education sytem here in south carolina…draw your own conclusions…a simple dictionary will help you with definitions because the ones your using do not apply to the words you are trying to APPLY them to!

  8. Lee Muller

    I am a product of public education and a lot of self eduation. I think many of the public schools are very good in SC. Dreher and Hand are rated as some of the best in the nation, for example.
    The problem is the sorry excuse for a “home life” that many children have. Liberals won’t address the root cause, because liberalism created the welfare mentality of a right to leisure, recreational sex, drug and alcohol abuse, and now it has the schools full of unwanted, mistreated, illegitimate children.
    The poor who are working and trying to move their families up the economic ladder now lose their jobs to the liberals policy of promoting an invasion of illegal workers from Mexico.

  9. Lee Muller

    You are free to be a communist as long as it is voluntary. The problem with large scale socialism is that it is grossly unfair, unproductive, and has to rely on an increasing amount of violent force applied to an increasing number of unwilling participants.
    America has tolerated communist communities before. Robert Owen and others set up communist settlements in the Midwest that prospered, but eventually they chose the better life they saw around them.
    Abe Lincoln recruited communists from Germany to come fight in his Civil War.

  10. rick campbell

    …again i see the vegetables but no meat at all in your paranoid delusional idea of what “liberals” have done to this country…me thinks you need to lay off the drug addict rush limbaugh wavelength, avoid fox fake news channel and of course don’t listen to awol “c” students born on third base that somehow thinks he hit a triple and by all means avoid anything a phone sex pervert o’ lielly says…
    ps: is ann coulter really the best spokesperson conservatives can come up with?
    if republicans are willing to spend 55 million to find out someone had a blowjob, why won’t they spend any money to find out why haliburton is missing BILLIONS?
    communist are known for their torture techniques, so tell me again how liberals are related to communists?
    what party best exemplifies communism?
    let’s see: illegal phone taps, reading of emails, no habeas corpus, library book card monitoring, gutting of the constituion, no oversight for the executive branch(dictatorship), personal war profiteering, torture, etc etc…need i go on or have you been educated enough now to know the definition of communism?

  11. Lee Muller

    Are you referring to Hillary Clinton’s WhoDB, stealing FBI files on political opponents, and having the IRS audit conservative and Christian groups?
    Or Al Gore’s attempt to set up a secret database of Americans by purchasing and merging their credit, driver’s license, and medical records? SC DMV sold all its information to his front company.
    Or were you referring to Hillary’s work for the Communist Party USA, and the long-time communists like Harold Ickes and Ira Magaziner who were her top staffer?
    You need to be more specific about which Democrat abuse of power bothers you.
    Seriously, I don’t think you have a clue about the history of socialism, communism, facism and liberalism, and how they are so intertwined.

  12. rick campbell

    …lee you are right i don’t have a clue about communism…except to know an idiot when i see how he writes…lies upon lies…there might be an opening at fox news for your “fair and balanced” views…what a joke…seriously i don’t think you can debate me at all…you have no spine…er eh spin…that can convince me of your paranoid delusions…lay off the rush limbaugh pills and come up with a new format, your current one reeks of aqua velva and old spice from the mccarthy days…have you considered rehab?…i know the hillbilly heroin is prevalent around here but it does cloud the mind, remember that…take a deep breath and repeat after me: facts have a liberal bias!….conservatives never met a fact they could not destroy with empty rhetoric…i yield the floor

  13. Lee Muller

    Everything I said in the above posts is documented. You can even find news stories about all of them in The State. Maybe you are young and not following the news when those scandals engulfed the Clinton-Gore regime. There are many history books documenting these scandals – thick books, with footnotes referencing court documents.
    Pick a scandal and I will point you to some original sources for remedial reading.


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