Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

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Jul 18th, 2008

What is a Traditional Conservative?

Commenting on my campaign slogan, Eric Zaetsch of the blog Developers are Crabgrass challenged me to define what I mean by “Restoring Traditional Conservative Values” [see footnote] and how I feel the incumbent has strayed from those values:

Clearly Immelman must speak for himself in this, but in this post I will mention “The Speech” and Reagan and Goldwater, as a start to where I would hope the GOP debate in the Sixth District might focus — what are traditional conservative values and how in coming days Bachmann and Immelman may, for voters, define their differing and overlapping views on that question. That is how we must expect them to define themselves in comparison to each other.

To start that debate, I present three excerpts from W. J. Wilczek’s exposition on “Traditional Conservative vs. Neoconservative.”

A traditional conservative is for limited government: “That government is best that governs least.” Under the neoconservatives, there has been the greatest increase in the size of the federal government … in the history of the nation. …

A traditional conservative is for a balanced budget. Under the neoconservatives, we have gone from surpluses to the largest deficits in our history. …

A traditional conservative is against engaging in foreign entanglements [except] in defense of the nation from attack by our enemies. …

To conclude, my notion of traditional conservative values fundamentally involves small government, fiscal restraint, and a strong military focused primarily on national defense, not nation-building or preemptive war.


After the primary campaign, I modified my campaign slogan from “Restoring Traditional Conservative Values” to “Leading the Charge Against Neocon Ideology.”

The underlying sentiment remains the same. I made the change purely because many constituents did not fully appreciate distinctions among traditional conservatism, social conservatism, and neoconservatism.

Traditional conservatives are always fiscally conservative and may or may not be socially conservative, but they are never neoconservatives.


Update: National Debt Clock runs out of numbers

Image: National Debt Clock
In a sign of the times, the National Debt Clock, shown here on Oct. 9, 2008 in New York, has run out of digits. The “1.” has been moved left to the space once occupied solely by the digital dollar sign. A non-digital, improvised dollar sign has been pasted next to the “1.” Below the amount of the national debt on the clock is another row of figures: “YOUR Family share.” As of Oct. 11, 2008, the $86,019 fit properly into the respective LCD squares. (Photo credit: Bebeto Matthews / AP file)

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