Six Conservative Guys

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Six Conservative Guys
Barry's picture gave me an idea. I think we should consider adding five other conservative guys to join Barry at the top of the page. Who would you add?

All time six conservative guys: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, Goldwater, Reagan.
20th-21st century version: Reagan, Goldwater, Buckley, Hayek, Scalia, and Milton Friedman.

And, yes, I'm looking forward to seeing the suggestions offered by our friends on the left.

For all time Conservatives I think we have to add Mr. Justice Holmes.

Here's why:

"While the courts must exercise a judgment of their own, it by no means is true that every law is void which may seem to the judges who pass upon it, excessive, unsuited to its ostensible end, or based upon conceptions of morality with which they disagree. Considerable latitude must be allowed for difference of view as well as for possible peculiar conditions which this court can know but imperfectly, if at all. Otherwise a Constitution, instead of embodying only relatively fundamental rules of right, as generally understood by all English-speaking communities, would become the partisan of a particular set of ethical or economic opinions, which by no means are held semper ubique et ab omnibus."
All time: Edmund Burke? Alexander Hamilton? St. Thomas Aquinas? Tocqueville? Adam Smith?

Recent: Russell Kirk? Whittaker Chambers? Frank Meyer? Irving Kristol? VD Hanson?
J - Kurt Russell?? He was great in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and Tombstone, but I don't think I would consider him amongst leading conservatives??
Except that washington, adams, jefferson and lincoln were lefties.
Yes, I don't understand why Jefferson is on the list. But Lincoln wasn't a lefty.
How about the obidient Shawn Hannity? Billy Graham also would be a good choice, and I am serious about him. Collin Powell is a good one, although many don't like him as he didn't cowtail to Bush. Then theres Ollie North and Richard Nixon. Ronal Reagan is a gimmie. Margret Thatcher was conservative, but not a guy. Putin is very conservative, but still formally the enemy. Straum Therman is a perfect addition, should be a shoe in. John Kennedy would be a republican today if he stuck to his agenda, so I nominate him. General Patton was very conservative. Rush Limbaugh of course, but he's a talking head, although a very bright one.
Jesus Christ, despite the long hair and sandals, he was at heart conservative.
Oh, and Taft, he drove liberals nuts.
I think you can make an argument on Jefferson, but Adams and Washington are in no way liberals in the modern sense. Strong advocates of executive power. Distrust of the masses. Strong belief that God is playing a role in America's rise to greatness.

Jefferson is a harder case to make (for conservatives), but I would argue that he was a classical liberal -- very liberal for his time, but what we would call a conservative today. He and Madison authored the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions which advocated in favor of state sovereignty over federal sovereignty. He authored the Declaration of Independence, declaring our rights to be God Given. Also, he was STRONGLY in favor of exporting democracy and believed that the Declaration of Independence applied to all men, not just Americans, and we should therefore act on the side of freedom whenever possible (sounds like Rumsfeld). Jefferson also believed that a nation of small, rural/agricultural communities, were preferable to a country populated largely in cities and urban areas. Jefferson was a tremendous force in American political thought, but he was also a bit of a sphynx -- he said a lot of contradictory things, and both conservatives and liberals can trace their political thought to Jefferson, at least in part.

I would argue that Lincoln was in no way a liberal, though he did expand national power over the states. Lincoln believed that the expansion of slavery outside of the southern states into new territories was contrary to the founders' true vision. He believed that slavery was evil and should be contained to the southern states, where it would be left to wither on the vine. It was the debate over the expansion of slavery to the territories (not the existence of slavery in the south) that led to the Civil War. For a long time, Lincoln was willing to accept the southern states' rights to make their own decisions on slavery as a necessary (but lamentable) part of the deal made at the nation's founding. In other words, he respected the constitution as he saw it. As the war progressed, he came to believe that the war was a punishment for the evil of slavery and that God had given him the opportunity to end it entirely and he must, therefore, act accordingly. He vastly expanded the powers of the presidency in wartime, raised a huge army, and allowed his generals to engage in total warfare against the rebel farms, homes, and infrastructure.

It is difficult to apply certain attributes (attitudes toward slavery, the equality of the races, for example) to modern day politics. Still, I think there are lessons to learn. There was no war in American history that was more of a quagmire than the Civil War. Critics, led by an apostate general, argued that we should abandon the war effort -- why should our young men die for the freedom of others? To paraphrase Jefferson, The Tree of Liberty must, from time to time, be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots. Sounds pretty (neo)conservative to me.

Liberal and conservative are sometimes relative terms. What today's conservatives are fighting to Conserve are the institutions and traditions established by men like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Lincoln. We are not reactionaries, obviously -- i.e., we are not seeking a return to slaveholding or monarchy! but conservatives who stand with the values and ideas put forward by the great men of the past.
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