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The shadow of conservatism

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The definition of conservatism fluctuates depending on whom you ask. If I had to find a common thread, I would argue that the traditional consensus is that conservatives believe in a small government coupled with a strong social fabric which espouses traditional values of home, family, and religion.

That doesn’t mean a conservative must be religious, necessarily, but he certainly should acknowledge the positive role of religious motivation in sculpting modern society.

But beyond this simple definition of small government mixed with traditional morals, there are actually two distinct factions of conservatism, and the distinction centers around the question: what are conservatives trying to conserve?

The difference between constitutional conservatism and practical conservatism is the basis for the quandary of what could be done vs. what should be done

In my opinion, the truest form of conservatism is constitutional conservatism, the group to which I belong. Constitutional conservatives seek to conserve the founding principles of our country, we believe in unalienable rights as defined by the Declaration of Independence and that God is the source of these rights, and we treasure the pillars of Western Civilization. Everything we do, every policy we push, and every goal to which we aspire — politically, economically, culturally — stems from the notion that all men are created equal and that our natural rights must be preserved.

This means that constitutional conservatives can, should, and often do defend every position they hold in terms of how it will advance freedom, how it will secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. A constitutional conservative’s stance is logical, since liberty is always beneficial to society, but it is also moral, for there are few concepts more virtuous than individual freedoms and God-given rights.

The other chief form of conservatism is shallower and unfortunately, I think, far more common. This is what I call practical conservatism.

Many on the Right refer to it as “fiscal conservatism,” but as I often lament, Democrats talk about starving children and Republicans use the word “fiscal.” It’s a boring word that instantly squanders public interest. A more accurate yet no less snooty title would be “pragmatic conservatism,” but I hesitate to go there for the same reasons. Thus, practical conservatism.

This branch of right-wing ideology promulgates largely identical principles to constitutional conservatism, especially when it comes to economic policy, healthcare, and immigration. But the two arrive at the same conclusion along different routes. Constitutional conservatives promote policy because it is right; practical conservatives endorse it because it works.

Now, there is some crossover. As I said, constitutional conservatism, while primarily concerned with the virtue of preserving natural rights, is also impeccably logical in its advocacy for capitalism, free markets, and cultural assimilation. Similarly, every practical conservative I know is pro-life, acknowledging that a fetus has a right to life. There is a recognition of right and wrong from both groups, but that is not the practical conservative’s primary concern. Nor is the constitutional conservative’s foremost consideration the economic outcome but rather the question of morality.

The late Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) was one of the pioneers of constitutional conservative thought. In his landmark book The Conscience of a Conservative (1960), he noted, “I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is ‘needed’ before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible.” If his constituency demanded action that he felt unconstitutional, he was prepared to deny it, no matter how urgent. To him, nothing justified the violation of human rights. Anticipating blowback for this position, he continued, “If I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ ‘interests,’ I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”

Defending rights will not always correlate with increased efficiency. Slavery would likely yield a thriving economy, considering low production costs, thus greater profits and reduced customer price. But I think we can all agree that efficiency is irrelevant in the name of a morally gross institution such as slavery.

Sadly, amid the infighting of the Republican Party, there exists further division among the already precious few conservatives — between the practical sort and those who seek to uphold the Constitution. We see this most recently in considerations for the Graham/Cassidy healthcare bill, a slight reduction on Obamacare which takes some positive steps but doesn’t adequately reduce spending, remove stifling provisions, or preserve states’ rights.

In deciding how to vote on this legislation, conservatives will be left to consider not only whether the bill will be a positive move for the economy and the image of the Republican Party, but whether it sufficiently advances the cause of individual rights.

The difference between constitutional conservatism and practical conservatism is the basis for the quandary of what could be done vs. what should be done. I, for one, believe that there is no greater virtue in politics than the conservation of natural rights — regardless of what will work best, I try to side with what will be best.

Practical conservatism is subject to change with the ebb and flow of efficiency. There is little reverence for any guiding philosophy apart from success.

For this reason, I see practical conservatism as just a shadow of true conservatism. It retains the same outline, but at its core it is empty, lacking in definition, and an incomplete representation of the structure it reflects.

Richie Angel is a Co-Editor in Chief of The New Guards. Follow him and The New Guards on Twitter, and check out The New Guards on Facebook.

Richie Angel is a Co-Editor in Chief of The New Guards, Co-Host of The New Guards Podcast, lifelong fan of the Anaheim Ducks, and proud Hufflepuff. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in English from Brigham Young University in 2017. One day later, his wife gave birth to a beautiful daughter. Richie is a constitutional conservative and doesn't see any compassion in violating other people's rights.

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It isn’t Never-Trump or Always-Trump destroying conservatism, it’s Sometimes-Trump

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One of the craziest—or should I say laziest—accusations leveled against me by Trump’s die-hard loyalists whenever I dare to call him out for breaking a campaign promise, getting caught in a lie, or promoting unconstitutional non-conservative ideas, is that I’m a liberal. Sometimes, they go so far as to accuse me of working for George Soros.

As I’ve said many times in response, I don’t work for Mr. Soros, but since money’s been a little tight at the Strident Conservative lately, if anyone has his number, I’d appreciate it if you’d send it my way.

It’s a sad reality that these pathetic taunts are what passes for political discourse in the Age of Trump. Gone are the days when differences could be civilly discussed based on facts instead of emotion.

Another sad reality of this behavior is that it’s a sign that the end of conservatism is near, as Trump’s small army of loyal followers attempt to rebrand conservatism by spreading the lie that he is a conservative and, using binary logic, accusing anyone who opposes him of being a liberal.

This rebranding effort has had an impact. Last week, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel warned Republican hopefuls that anyone who opposed Trump’s agenda would be “making a mistake.”

McDaniel’s threat was issued following the GOP primary defeat in South Carolina by conservative Mark Sanford after he was personally targeted by Trump himself. Sanford’s crime? Disloyalty to the NY Liberal.

Another source of damage to conservatism has come from evangelicals and the so-called conservative media. In the name of self-preservation, they choose to surrender their principles by promoting the lie that Trump is a conservative. Some of these voices have taken to labelling conservatives who oppose Trump as Never-Trump conservatives, or worse, branding them as liberals and/or Democrats, as was recently written in a piece at TheFederalist.com:

“Trump may be an unattractive and deeply flawed messenger for contemporary conservatism. But loathe though they might be to admit it, what’s left of the Never-Trump movement needs to come to grips with the fact that the only words that currently describe them are liberals and Democrats.”

Then there are those who have adopted a Sometimes-Trump attitude about the president, where everything Trump does is measured using a good Trump/bad Trump barometer. While it has become fashionable for Sometimes-Trump conservatives to stand on their soap boxes condemning both Never-Trump conservatives and Always-Trump faux conservatives, I believe that this politically bipolar approach to Trump is the greatest threat of all to Constitutional conservatism in America.

Sometimes-Trump conservatives have accepted the lie that it’s okay to do a little evil in exchange for a greater good. Though they may fly a conservative banner, their lukewarm attitude about Trump is much like the attitude we see in the Laodicean church mentioned in the Book of Revelations (3:15-16).

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Trump is a double-minded man unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). When lukewarm Sometimes-Trump conservatives choose to overlook this reality, they end up watering-down conservatism to the point that it has no value or power to change America’s course.

As lukewarm Sometimes-Trump conservatives point to the Always-Trump and Never-Trump factions as the reason for today’s conservative divide, remember that it’s the unenthusiastic, noncommittal, indifferent, half-hearted, apathetic, uninterested, unconcerned, lackadaisical, passionless, laid back, couldn’t-care-less conservative imposters in the middle who are really responsible.

Originally posted on The Strident Conservative.

 


David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His daily radio commentary is distributed by the Salem Radio Network and is heard on stations across America.

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Conservative Picks for the Nevada Primary

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Nevada is full of competition. There are no shortage of quality candidates in Nevada, only quality politicians. Nevada isn’t a strong blue state or red state. It usually sides with the winner in a presidential election. In fact, given Trump’s upset, it was surprising Nevada wasn’t one of the states where polling was wholly inaccurate. Nevada is home of Las Vegas, the country’s fastest growing metropolitan area. So the future political leanings of the state are up in the air. This primary features vacancies which offer a nice opportunity to grow conservative ideals among the population.

Best Picks: Danny Tarkanian, Joel Beck
Worst Picks: Mark Amodei, Cresent Hardy
Best Race: District 3
Worst Race: District 4

US Senate

Dean Heller is an incumbent Republican and in all likelihood will keep his nomination. Heller is running on a rather unimpressive Senate record showing that he is part of the problem, not the solution. There are four challengers but only a few are worth talking about. The first is Sarah Gazala. She is somewhat running as a conservative, but her emphasis on education shows that she isn’t the right fit for the Senate. A local office would be a better calling. Then there’s Vic Harrell. The only discernible fact about Harrell is his devotion to Trump. This zeal isn’t wrong but it doesn’t make him a good candidate. The strongest challenger is Tom Heck. Heck ran and lost in 2016 in a tight race. It’s very possible Heck could maintain the seat, and probable that he would do a superior job.

Conservative Pick: Tom Heck

District 1

Two challengers seek to red pill this district. The first, Joyce Bentley, has a decent platform and is like to side with Trump on several key issues. The issue is whether she will deviate when necessary. The second is Freddy Horne. He is likely the more viable candidate here having a history of running a campaign, but its a moot point in this district.

Conservative Pick: Joyce Bentley

District 2

Mark Amodei has held the seat for a while and is a RINO. He faces three challengers. Sharron Angel is the first. She was a failed Senate candidate in 2016 losing to Heck. She seems as though a strong Conservative. But she may be a weak candidate. Joel Beck is a veteran running on a solid small government platform. He has a more thorough understanding of veterans issues and immigration than most. Beck would be an outstanding defender of the Constitution.

Conservative Pick: Joel Beck

District 3

This vacated seat has caused a feeding frenzy of an election. but this race is between Scott Hammond and Danny Tarkanian. Hammond is a State Senator with a decent record and the backing of the NRA. But from this article which he promoted, he doesn’t seem to be a strong defender of liberty, though its hard to get a clear picture with the bias writing. In a rare instance of strategic planning by the Trump administration with regards to the 2018 race, Team Trump convinced Tarkanian to seek the House as opposed to the Senate. Danny Tarkanian, being a team player, obliged. Nothing wrong with that. Playing along earned him a Trump endorsement. And while Heller gets by with one less challenger from the right, Tarkanian has a better chance at reducing government spending as he campaigns heavily on. Overall, Tarkanian may be a sycophant, but Hammond is more likely a RINO climbing the ladder.

Conservative Pick: Danny Tarkanian

District 4

Congressman Ruben Kihuen will not seek reelection as the result of a sexual harassment scandal. This presents a golden opportunity to flip this blue seat. Many Republicans have entered but there is no clear frontrunner. First up is Jeff Miller. He’s running to prevent Nevada from becoming East California. With all the candidates, the Las Vegas Review-Journal made this one easy. The former Congressman refused to answer. If Cresent Hardy believes he’s too big to answer yes or no questions, he probably thinks he’s too good to talk to his constituents. The only thing that is concerning is the question on DACA recipients.

Conservative Pick: Jeff Miller

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Conservative Picks in the South Carolina Primary

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South Carolina is one of the nation strongest overall states for Conservatism. Out of nine representatives, eight of which Republican, only two are complete RINOs (Joe Wilson and Lindsey Graham). Conservatism is strong in South Carolina just as it is in North Carolina. This primary presents a good opportunity to maintain and grow. Trey Gowdy is exiting, presenting a good chance for an upgrade at the position. Since the GOP took the Whitehouse, Gowdy stopped being fiscally Conservative, and is an unfortunate voice of support for the expensive Mueller investigation.

Best Pick: Mark Sanford
Worst Pick: Katie Arrington
Best Race: District 4
Worst Race: District 7

District 1

After five years, Mark Sanford has been a solid Conservative. He is being challenged. His main opponent is Katie Arrington. Arrington is a full blown Trumpist. If she had a shred of Conservatism in her she would be satisfied with the performance of Sanford. But instead she is challenging him because he, like most decent Conservatives, has been reasonably critical of Trump. Arrington’s fanaticism is not worth the risk of losing Sanford.

Conservative Pick: Mark Sanford

District 2

Joe Wilson is an unchallenged product of the swamp. He is running to complete his second decade.

District 3

Jeff Duncan is a steadfast Conservative who didn’t compromise under Obama and has remained strong under Trump. He is unchallenged.

District 4

There are numerous candidates seeking to fill Trey Gowdy’s shoes. The first of which was written about back in February, Mark Burns. I had a lot to say about Trump’s top pastor:

I remain optimistic about Mark Burns joining the ranks of Congress. Previously, Burns announced he was praying about challenging Lindsey Graham, a notorious warmongering RINO. But it appears either prayer or opportunism has landed him in a different race. Due to his political amateurism, not many of his positions are clear. Oddly enough, he has suggested Federal takeover of public school security. Though his heart seems in the right place, his position shows a lack of localism which small government believes in. It’s safe to speculate that Mark Burns isn’t all that fiscal conservative which isn’t unfamiliar.

On social issues, however, Pastor Mark Burns could be a strong tool for conservatives, so long as he can graduate from being a Trump surrogate. Burns has a more unifying persona than a lot of Republicans adding the possibility of broadening the base. On the issues of race and abortion, Pastor Mark Burns is a powerful voice. Though a strong personality does not make one the best candidate, Burn has tremendous potential to make a difference in DC.

Another formidable candidate is Lee Bright. He has the backing of Steve King (IA) and Thomas Massie (KY). Massie is a strong Conservative so this endorsement means something. Bright’s political career was put on hold when he got primaried in 2016. To be frank, he got voted out probably for being a nutjob. This guy is all rhetoric and no substance. He will maybe vote the right way, but he is not a leader on Conservative legislation. Furthermore he is a weaker candidate due to his propensity to act a fool. Bright isn’t likable but he at the end of the day, he wouldn’t be a RINO.

Then there’s William Timmons. He has the endorsement of Marco Rubio which indicate that he is the RINO in this race. Timmons campaigns on fiscal responsibility but champions Trump for it who has not been fiscally responsible this year. Either he’s pandering or misinformed. Either way, it’s an indication he will e a big spender. His attack ads on Dan Hamilton are baseless, though he is likely correct that Hamilton is not that Conservative. But Timmons record isn’t Conservative either.

Conservative Pick: Mark Burns

District 5

Ralph Norman is unopposed. He’s actually been solid in his brief tenure.

District 6

Gerhard Gressmann is the only Republican running.

District 7

Tom Rice has been a halfway decent Congressman but not without fault. He is being challenged by Larry Guy Hammond. Hammond is running from the right but not with a level head. Tom Rice isn’t fantastic, but populism won’t do the job better. And Hammond is more populist than Conservative. His website offers no real solutions. It merely trashes the state and asks for money.

Conservative Pick: Tom Rice

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