The problem with asking what has conservatism conserved

After the passing of the latest omnibus spending bill, many members of the pro-Trump right were eager to excoriate the Republican political establishment for needlessly capitulating. They are correct that the bill was terrible --- increasing discretionary spending in almost every single category---but the blame ought to fall equally on the leadership that drafted it and the president that signed it.

Nonetheless, this controversy led many populist Trump backers to echo a long-used talking point: “What has conservatism conserved?” In other words, what has the political right done to preserve American values or achieve policy ends? But the phrasing of the question belies a poor understanding of American conservatism.

The American conservative movement is a relatively new movement, and William F. Buckley defined it as fusionist: an alliance of free-market libertarians like F.A. Hayek and Henry Hazlitt, religious traditionalists like Russell Kirk, and ardent anti-communists like Whittaker Chambers. But why “conservative”? What were these people looking to “conserve”?

Liberalism.

Classical liberalism, a loose ideology of enlightenment values, natural individual rights, and free-market economics, was the ideological system these conservatives were looking to conserve from the progressive movement, who eventually appropriated the label of “liberal.” Progressives like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who thought the Constitution was a barrier to progress in the form of bigger government. While the conservative movement had traditionalists at its inception, the idea that the preservation of culture or identity was the primary goal of American conservatism is wrong.

But how effective has the American conservative movement been at preserving classical liberalism and limited government? Some commentators see American government and conclude that the conservative movement has failed at conserving limited government and that Trumpism, both in commitment to the man and the pseudo-ideology, is the only way for the right, because “he fights” even if not always for the right things. But the fact is that the conservative movement has been “fighting” since well before Donald Trump.

Writer Noah Rothman had a piece almost two years ago citing some examples of what the conservative movement has achieved over the past forty years.

The spread of originalist interpretation of the Constitution has been a major triumph of the conservative movement.

The spread of originalist interpretation of the Constitution has been a major triumph of the conservative movement. Once considered a solely conservative view of the law, that judicial philosophy has become mainstreamed: the US has come far since the defeat of Robert Bork. The Federalist Society is the best example of an “alternative institution,” developed as a competitor to mainstream liberal organizations, that has thrived, and indeed, the successes of the Trump administration regarding judicial appointments, from Gorsuch down, can be attributed to the work of the Federalist Society.

Similarly, the Republican Party has been effective in driving the lowering of tax rates over time. When Ronald Reagan took office, the top marginal tax rate was 70 percent: following the implementation of both of his major tax cuts (1981 and 1986), the top marginal tax rate was 28 percent. Since then, the top marginal tax rate has never gotten above 39.6 percent, despite 16 years of Democratic presidents since then. Even Senator Bernie Sanders is unwilling to propose shifting the top income tax bracket above 52 percent. This shifting of the Overton window on taxes ought not be forgotten.

The efficacy of Republicans in opposition in reducing spending is also overlooked. Bill Clinton did not enter the presidency a centrist, and instead sought to expand federal government spending (remember HillaryCare?). But it was the Republican congress, starting in 1994, that forced President Clinton to pass much needed reforms to welfare, and ultimately, while kicking and screaming, to balance the budget.

The stalwart opposition from the Republican Party under President Obama cannot be overlooked.

Under President Obama, too, both the Boehner establishment and the Tea Party were successful in stalling the growth of spending. After 2010, federal spending growth slowed to the point where spending actually declined over the years 2012 and 2013 for the first time since 1954. Not to mention Mitch McConnell’s blocking of Merrick Garland’s Supreme court nomination. The stalwart opposition from the Republican Party under President Obama cannot be overlooked.

Does the conservative movement have failings? Yes. The Republican Party only seems to make a stand against spending when in the opposition party, and spending often rises faster under Republican administrations. Similarly, they seem unwilling to take seriously the national debt and the coming entitlement crisis. However, the idea that the pre-Trump political right was a feckless organization incapable of fighting for conservative principles, and that the current president is someone to build a movement around rather than someone benefiting from the fixtures of a movement that well predates him is a fictitious creation of his most staunch backers.

MORE FROM YOUNG VOICES

Alex Muresianu is a freshman at Tufts University studying economics, and a Young Voices Advocate. He is also a contributor for Lone Conservative.

Eric Weinstein, managing director of investment firm Thiel Capital and host of "The Portal" podcast, is not a conservative, but he says conservative and center-right-affiliated media are the only ones who will still allow oppositional voices.

On "The Glenn Beck Podcast" this week, Eric told Glenn that the center-left media, which "controls the official version of events for the country," once welcomed him, but that all changed about eight years ago when they started avoiding any kind of criticism by branding those who disagree with them as "alt-right, far-right, neo-Nazi, etc.," even if they are coming from the left side of the aisle. But their efforts to discredit critical opinions don't stop there. According to Eric, there is a strategy being employed to destroy our national culture and make sure Americans with opposing views do not come together.

"We're trifling with the disillusionment of our national culture. And our national culture is what animates the country. If we lose the culture, the documents will not save us," Eric said. "I have a very strongly strategic perspective, which is that you save things up for an emergency. Well, we're there now."

In the clip below, Eric explains why, after many requests over the last few years, he finally agreed to this podcast.

Don't miss the full interview with Eric Weinstein here.

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Glenn Beck: Why MLK's pledge of NONVIOLENCE is the key to saving America

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Listen to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s pledge of nonviolence and really let it sink in: "Remember always that the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation — not victory."

On the radio program, Glenn Beck shared King's "ten commandments" of nonviolence and the meaning behind the powerful words you may never have noticed before.

"People will say nonviolent resistance is a method of cowards. It is not. It takes more courage to stand there when people are threatening you," Glenn said. "You're not necessarily the one who is going to win. You may lose. But you are standing up with courage for the ideas that you espouse. And the minute you engage in the kind of activity that the other side is engaging in, you discredit the movement. You discredit everything we believe in."

Take MLK's words to heart, America. We must stand with courage, nonviolently, with love for all, and strive for peace and rule of law, not "winning."

Watch the video below for more:

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Conservatives are between a rock and a hard place with Section 230 and Big Tech censorship. We don't want more government regulation, but have we moved beyond the ability of Section 230 reforms to rein in Big Tech's rising power?

Rachel Bovard, Conservative Partnership Institute's senior director of policy, joined the Glenn Beck radio program to give her thoughts and propose a possibly bipartisan alternative: enforcing our existing antitrust laws.

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Dan Bongino, host of The Dan Bongino Show, is an investor in Parler — the social media platform that actually believes in free speech. Parler was attacked by Big Tech — namely Amazon, Apple, and Google — earlier this week, but Bongino says the company isn't giving up without a fight. In fact, he says, he's willing to go bankrupt over this one.

Dan joined Glenn Beck on the radio program to detail what he calls a "smear" campaign behind the scenes, and how he believes we can move forward from Big Tech's control.

"You have no idea how bad this was behind the scenes," Dan told Glenn. "I know you're probably thinking ... well, how much worse can the attack on Parler have gotten than three trillion-dollar companies — Amazon, Apple, and Google — all seemingly coordinated to remove your business from the face of the Earth? Well, behind the scenes, it's even worse. I mean, there are smear campaigns, pressure campaigns ... lawyers, bankers, everyone, to get this company ... wiped from the face of the earth. It's incredible."

Dan emphasized that he would not give up without a fight, because what's he's really fighting for is the right to free speech for all Americans, regardless of their political opinions, without fear of being banned, blacklisted, or losing jobs and businesses.

"I will go bankrupt. I will go absolutely destitute before I let this go," he said. "I have had some very scary moments in my life and they put horse blinders on me. I know what matters now. It's not money. It's not houses. It's none of that crap. It's this: the ability to exist in a free country, where you can express your ideas freely."

Watch the video below to hear more from Dan:

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