Conservative Conundrum & Political Labels

“You are not a conservative!” That charge gets used a lot by parties on the political Right. Yet, those who make such a charge don’t bother to give a definition of conservative.

Perhaps that is because the definition of conservative, as used in politics, is subjective.

To get a better understanding of what a conservative is, one needs to consider the definition of to conserve.

Here is the definition from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary:

If to conserve means to keep, to protect, to preserve, then a conservative is a person who wants to keep, protect and preserve something.

During the U.S. Civil War, those siding with the Confederacy wanted to keep, protect and preserve the institution of slavery.

During the mid-20th Century, white people opposed to civil-rights legislation wanted to keep, protect and preserve the ability of white Americans to engage in racial discrimination in the market place.

Today, people on the political Left want to keep, protect and preserve the ability of pregnant women to obtain abortions if the women want them.

People on the political Left also want to keep, protect and preserve the ability of two adults of the same gender to get married to each other.

In a nutshell, every person is a conservative in some way, because every person wants to keep, protect and preserve whatever it is that pleases or benefits that person.

Right now, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are competing to keep, protect and preserve what is valued by each party. The Democratic Party is fighting to keep, protect and preserve its control of the White House, while the Republican Party is fighting to keep, protect and preserve its control of Congress.

Then again, a political party exists for the purpose of keeping, protecting and preserving whatever that party’s members value.

Do people on the political Left have values that they want to keep, protect and preserve? Yes, of course.

Since the word conservative isn’t copyrighted, anyone can claim to be a conservative.

The same thing can be said about the labels liberal and progressive.

Originally, liberal was a synonym for generous, which is why it is said in politics, “Classic liberals are generous with their own money. Modern liberals are generous with other people’s money.”

Are people on the political Right generous with their own money? Yes, they are. They are liberals in the classic sense of the word.

Perhaps that is why people on the political Left prefer to describe themselves as being progressives.

However, the progressive label is itself subjective.

The Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary defines to progress as to move toward an improved or more developed state, or to a forward position.

Exactly what state or position do self-described progressives want to move toward?

People on the political Right want to make progress toward a state or position of their liking. So, they are progressives in their own way.

In summary, if one labels one’s self a conservative, then no other party has the authority to deprive one of that label. The same also goes for the labels liberal and progressive.

In short, such labels have meaning only in the minds of those who use them.

That is why this writer doesn’t use them for himself. After all, he is a moderate.

Now is the summer of our discontent...
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  • Hank_M

    Agreed about labels. They mean little and they’re not accurate. But If I had to label the democrats, fascist seems accurate. As to the Repubs, spineless appeasers (before Trump) is what I’d use.

    And while I’m ranting….the media deserves their own label – dishonest bastards.

    • Oh, hell yes on the media.

  • Vagabond661

    You would think a moderate would include a definition of a moderate in his analysis.

    Here is one from Mirriam-Webster: having average or less than average quality : mediocre

    hmmmmm…..yep.

    • jim_m

      It would appear that Christian needs a new definition as Rick is demonstrating to mean small minded, petty and vindictive. I don’t recall Christ teaching those things but Rick claims great knowledge on these subjects.

      • Vagabond661

        Well I don’t recall Jesus calling anyone ignorant. We have all seen those on their high chair….I mean horse smiting others when they live in glass houses.

    • jim_m

      I like Thesaurus.com, which provides synonyms for moderate including bland, unexceptional and inconsequential.

  • Paul Hooson

    A couple of men I deeply admire is mainstream conservative George Will and moderate David Gergen.

  • Scalia

    To get a better understanding of what a conservative is, one needs to consider the definition of to conserve.

    To get a better understanding of what a conservative is, one needs to have a better understanding of history. The word conservative is also defined in the dictionary you cite. Why did you leave it out?

    tending to emphasize the importance of personal responsibility and traditional values and to oppose depending on government for social services:

    What we are “conserving” is the form of government established at our founding—limited and specified in its scope. Assigning it a fluid definition displays your typical loose association with the facts.

  • One might use these terms as questions in an ideological survey- what would youo like to conserve/what changes are you going against VS what would you like to change.

    Those labels are relative and this isn’t observed since it’s generally agreed on what conserevatists do want to preserve and how do the progressivists understand progress – what aims do they have. But this is contextual.