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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Conservatives? Not in America

    Justyn DillinghamEditor-in-Chief
    Justyn Dillingham

    After the November election, political observers set themselves to the task of writing the obituary of the “”conservative era.”” That time was ending, liberals crowed; now we were surely headed for sensible times.

    Yet we cannot understand our country without facing the fact that our era is not conservative. The so-called “”conservative”” movement that dominates our politics is nothing more than a smokescreen. In fact, there are no truly conservative politicians in America, and arguably there never have been.

    After all, what is a conservative? Someone who values tradition. In an older country like England, with customs that stretch back as far as anyone can remember, this rule might be easy enough to stick with.

    But America was founded on the notion that things are not good or necessary simply because they have been around forever. Slavery was as sacred a tradition as this country ever had, and when we decided we’d had enough of it, we picked it up and tossed it right out the window.

    Faced with this dilemma, true conservatives would look to the words of the country’s founders for guidance. Conservatives distrust radicals who call for sweeping change, and they believe that when it comes to government, the people know best. That’s why we desperately need them in our politics.

    Unfortunately, even a cursory glance at any “”conservative”” politician shows that they are anything but. Again and again they have betrayed the beliefs they claim to hold dear whenever it suits them.

    Are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney conservative? Bush has presided over the largest expansion of executive power in years while claiming that his

    Even a cursory glance at any “”conservative””
    politician shows that they are anything but. Again and again they have betrayed the beliefs they claim to hold dear whenever it suits them.

    sacred mission is to spread “”freedom”” to all the world, while Cheney has declared that Americans “”must be prepared to face our responsibilities and be willing to use force if necessary.””

    Is this “”conservatism”” in action? It sounds more like a rebuke to one of America’s most cherished principles – that of minding one’s own damned business. As John Quincy Adams put it, America “”goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion … only of her own.””

    Conservatives are likely to retort that Bush represents an unfortunate perversion of their principles. True conservatives like John McCain, a self-proclaimed “”Reagan Republican,”” embody real conservatism.

    If McCain is guided by a single guiding principle other than the desire to eventually get elected president, I’ve yet to spot it. In 1999, he said Roe vs. Wade was necessary to protect women from “”illegal and dangerous operations””; last month he declared that it “”should be overturned.”” Had illegal abortions become safer in a mere eight years?

    Lately McCain has taken to the road to protest our current drift into “”isolationism.”” Whom exactly is he attacking? Certainly no major politician has taken a stance that in any way resembles isolationism. Nor do the “”liberal”” intelligentsia, constantly prattling on about the need for “”world leadership,”” offer anything of the sort.

    “”The American people are generous,”” McCain once declared. “”They are willing to sacrifice in the defense of someone else’s freedom.””

    One hardly knows what to say to that. What in our history could possibly lead anyone to believe that Americans are willing to sacrifice their own freedoms, their civil liberties and their very lives in “”defense of someone else’s freedom””? It is as if the American colonists, instead of fighting merely for their own liberty, had pledged to invade England and rid the British people of their tyrannical king!

    These are not the words of a conservative, concerned with preserving America’s cherished traditions. They are the words of a radical who does not know he is a radical.

    McCain came of age in a time when our leaders were largely concerned with the fight against Communism; it is the only kind of “”great leadership”” he knows. And because he wants to be a great leader, genuine conservative values – like securing the liberties of ordinary people against an all-powerful government – aren’t enough.

    When our “”conservatives”” tire of foreign adventures and expanding the power of the state, they’ll deserve the title again. Until then, we should label them for what they are – radicals.

    Justyn Dillingham is the copy chief for the Arizona Daily Wildcat and is a junior majoring in political science and history. He can be reached at

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