James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Two Conservatisms

Here is a quiz I wrote. Of the two options, which is the "conservative" answer?

1. The ideolgoical make-up of the Supreme Court matters because
a) unelected activist judges have no business meddling in local matters where the Constitution is silent, like abortion or prayer in schools.
b) the courts have no business stripping the President of all the tools he needs to wage the War on Terror.

2. Tax cuts
a) are important and spending cuts are equally important, for moral and economic reasons.
b) cause economic growth. Spending cuts are less important, because deficits don’t matter.

3. On Gay Marriage
a)The Tenth Amendment leaves the question of marriage to be left to the states, or to the people - and that’s how it should be.
b) There must be an amendment to the Constitution banning gay marriage.

4. Illegal immigrants
a) shouldn’t be entitled to welfare or other benefits, and shouldn’t be given amnesty; that will just encourage even more illegal immigration.
b) should be considered felons, as should those who give them any help whatsoever.

5. Curbing illegal immigration
a) means we have to secure our borders better.
b) means everyone should have a national ID card, which they would be required to show to prove they’re not illegal aliens.

6. On the U.N. and foreign affairs
a) The U.S. should be concerned only with her own liberty and security, not the welfare of other countries.
b) The U.N. only serves as a hindrance to America’s noble project of bringing liberty and democracy to the world.

7. Protecting America from foreign terrorism
a) may require greater border security, revision of our immigration policies, and maybe even monitoring of immigrants from certain countries.
b) requires warrant-less surveillance of American citizens, the revocation of habeas corpus, and “aggressive interrogation techniques” which aren't really torture if the President says they're not.

8. Conservatism
a) is really about culture and manners more than it is about politics.
b) is the political expression of Evangelical Christianity.

9. On Education
a) Get rid of the Dept. of Education; public schools should be locally controlled.
b) National educational standards are vital to America's future.

10. Morality and Society
a) Sometimes the best way to contain the negative effects of immoral behavior is to tolerate it; prohibition often makes things worse and it brings huge profits to gangsters and causes violent crime to soar.
b) Immoral behavior must be stamped out or God will punish the nation.

11. 9-11
a) wasn't all that surprising, considering U.S. foreign policy.
b) changed everything.

12. On the Environment
a) We must be pragmatic and use the best available science when considering environmental and energy policy, while maintaining skepticism toward government laws and programs as solutions.
b) Shout down and ridicule environmentalists and their "junk science" at every opportunity. We know for a fact that it's "junk" science because environmentalists are morons.

13. On American influence over the rest of the world
a) The idea of empire goes against the nature of America's republican institutions.
b) America should show the world who's boss.

14. On Populism
a) Populist resentment should be directed toward the Fed banking monopoly, corporate welfare queens, and our irresponsible Congress that sacrifices American sovereignty for phony "free trade."
b) Populist resentment should be directed toward gay rights activists, Hollywood actors, and anti-American professors.

15. On War
a) The purpose of a strong military and war preparedness is to prevent war; war is the result of a tragic failure of statesmanship.
b) War advances freedom and helps the economy.

16. Nationalism and federalism
a) We are safer and freer when power is decentralized.
b) Only the federal government can protect us from evil.

17. The horrible Clinton Administration was epitomized
a) by Janet Reno's kidnapping of Elian Gonzalez.
b) by Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders' suggestion of masturbation as a means to combat the spread of STD's.

18. On stem cell research
a) The federal government shouldn't fund stem cell research because of the Tenth Amendment.
b) The federal government should ban all stem cell research for theological reasons.

19. On Fascism
a) Fascism is evil because it is militaristic, corporatist, and it disdains individual rights and freedoms.
b) Because I'm not anti-Semitic, I can't possibly be called a fascist.

20. On Bush and the Republicans
a) Bush lost my trust when he signed into law the McCain-Feingold “Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act” even though he knew it was unconstitutional.
b) The Mark Foley scandal really makes me angry at the Republicans, for the first time ever, but at least they're not Democrats.

21. On Crime
a) The purpose of "tough on crime" policies is to protect the rest of us from habitual, violent criminals.
b) The purpose of "tough on crime" policies is vengeance.

22. Privacy and the War on Terror
a) Law-abiding citizens shouldn't have their privacy violated, at airports or anywhere else.
b) If you did nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.

23. On Flag Desecration
a) The Flag-burning Amendment is a cynical sidestep from the real issues facing us.
b) Flag desecraters must be thrown in jail because the Flag is a symbol of freedom.

24. On the Bush Presidency
a) Six years ago I thought the Left was hysterical and unfair about Bush; now I fear he's even more incompetent than even they anticipated.
b) George W. Bush was sent by God to be our leader in this dangerous time.

25. On Government Growth
a) With control over Congress and the White House, Bush and the Republicans squandered a real opportunity to shrink government and cut taxes for the middle class while balancing the budget.
b) Bush and the Republicans had to increase the size of government because if they didn't, the Democrats would have made it even bigger; once the Republicans have a filibuster-proof majority, government will get smaller.

26. Medical marijuana
a) is a states' rights issue.
b) is a liberal smokescreen and the gateway toward legalization of all drugs, which will destroy our communities.

Of course, the quiz is a trick, to illustrate a point. The conservative response to each question is either a or b, depending on who you ask. The "a" answers reflect a Constitutional conservatism of limited government, whereas the "b" answers reflect an authoritarian "conservatism" of unrestrained government. The more one agrees with the "a" answers, the less reason one has to vote Republican this year; the more one agrees with the "b" answers, the more enthusiastic one will vote Republican.

I don't think this authoritarian "b" group of necons and Religious Rightists are really "conservative" at all. But through their take-over of the Republican Party, they've destroyed the "conservative" brand name just as surely and effectively as Big Government Democrats in FDR's day destroyed the word "liberal." Now, conservatism means something quite different from what it meant forty or fifty years ago. And now, Constitutionalists and paleo-conservatives have just about as much impact politically as do libertarians and classical liberals.


  1. excellent post -- I am a straight "a" man

  2. Very insightful. I've just begun reading Team of Rivals, by DK Goodwin. I don't think the founders of the Republican Party would recognize it today.