What is American Conservatism?

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Friday, March 30, 2018


In almost every aspect of American pop culture, leftist viewpoints dominate. From Hollywood to mainstream media to academia, the leftist stranglehold on ideas is evident. With such a bias for one viewpoint, many conservatives have made comfortable livings simply opposing these leftist viewpoints. Unfortunately, this has given rise to a warped view of what American conservatism truly is. And that is the question: What does conservatism actually look like in America?

Conservatism is a hard philosophy to nail down. This is because a conservative in one culture can be diametrically opposed to the ideology of a conservative in another culture. This stems from the root of the word, conserve. Conservatives, by definition, are attempting to conserve some ideology, but the ideology being preserved depends on the ideology of the culture. This is where the distinction of being an American conservative becomes important. A conservative in Iran seeks to preserve a more traditional Muslim ideology, one that lead to the Islamic Revolution of 1979, for example. And this begs the question: what are conservatives in America attempting to preserve?

There is a somewhat accurate connection between conservatism and a tendency to avoid change, especially in American political circles. However, today this is more inaccurate than it ever has been in American history. This is because of the specific ideology of conservatism in America.

Conservatism is about understanding and adhering to the Founding Fathers’ vision of the country as it was so beautifully described in the Constitution. To this end, conservatives would actually like to see a number of changes made in the country. Most of these can be summed up in one phrase: shrink the Federal Government. The Constitution allows for very few powers granted to the Federal Government for the express purpose of expanding personal freedoms. Shrinking the Federal Government would be an enormous shock to many and be a giant detour from the path that we’ve been on for a while now. The Founders would say that we’ve changed too much from their original intent, and ironically would probably like us to “change” back to who we were originally meant to be.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This philosophy expressed in the Declaration of Independence guided the Founding Fathers in their pursuit to establish the best government they could. This is also the philosophy that American conservatives are attempting to preserve.

While it is true that conservatives are opposed to most leftist ideas, this opposition should not define the conservative movement. Part of this problem is simply messaging. Conservatives too often take a defensive stance in political discourse, attempting to simply explain why a leftist policy won’t work, instead of stating why the conservative policy actually will work. This mentality produces a level of uncertainty in the minds of average Americans. Positives are more attractive than negatives. It is not enough to most voters to tell them what won’t work.

Campaigning on opposition to policies, rather than policies themselves, drives people to the other side of the aisle, because at least leftists have an actual policy they are proposing, and one which they defend vehemently.

Leftists understand how important messaging is. So even when they’re dead wrong on the issues, they’re so forceful in their messaging that they can’t help but be heard. The fact that they’re also in full command of the media and popular culture, has ensured that their message was quite loud in recent decades. However this may turn out to be a good thing for conservatives, because it seems that lately people are evaluating leftism and finding it to be lacking.

The good news, is that conservative values are attractive to many indecisive voters. Everyone wants more freedom to make decisions for their own life. While true conservatism may seem to be fading from the public discourse, the remaining champions of the movement have a simple path forward.

Get on the offensive in political discourse. Stop explaining why policies won’t work and start talking about why your policies will work. Make people believe in their personal freedoms again. This is the quickest way to win Americans over and bring America back to the principles upon which it was founded. All hope is not lost.

Jaime Hahn is a sophomore economics major at Kennesaw State University, where she is chair of her Young Americans for Freedom chapter. She is passionate about Whitesnake, Winston Churchill, and winning peers to the conservative movement.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Jaime Hahn

Kennesaw State University

Jaime Hahn is a sophomore economics major at Kennesaw State University, where she is chair of her Young Americans for Freedom chapter. She is passionate about Whitesnake, Winston Churchill, and winning peers to the conservative movement.

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