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.

Would Glenn make a better bounty hunter or a Jedi? You'll have to find out in a new episode of the Beltway Banthas Podcast, where Glenn goes deep on Star Wars with host Stephen Kent. In this 45 minute discussion, Stephen and Glenn explore the political themes of the Star Wars franchise, Darth Vader's redemption from Return of the Jedi, Glenn's earliest memories of seeing the films and even debate elements of the latest Star Wars films.

If you enjoy the pop culture and nerdy discussions that Glenn, Pat and Stu get into on the radio show, you'll love this! After you're through, you can also check out Stu Burguiere's appearance on Beltway Banthas to talk Star Wars. You can find that here.


It's never too early to start your Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanzaa shopping. Or even birthday gift shopping. Especially if that special someone in your life is a Democrat. Because at last count, pretty much all the Democrats are now running for president. And that means there has never been a wider selection of official candidate merchandise to choose from. Whether you're into environmentalism, feminism, classism, socialism, or just plain love, there is a smorgasbord of classy items that you and yours will treasure forever... or at least until the next presidential election.

We have browsed each of the candidates' online stores, so you don't have to (it only took us three months). We have curated only the finest items from each of the Democrats running for president of the United States of America. Without further ado, here is your handy progressive gift guide – or maybe your what-not-to-gift guide.

First, the bargain basement options. Hurry! Time is running out to grab your Beto bandana, or your Delaney pack of golf balls, because at this point Stu has as much of a chance as these guys of getting the nomination.

Tom Steyer, for example – is he still in the race?


https://shop.tomsteyer.com/collections/frontpage/products/tom-2020-pattern-tee


There's way too much Tom here. That shirt's got more Toms than a Caucasian dentists' convention.

For the slightly more moderate Democrat in your life, perhaps they'd like to join the "Yang Gang"…

https://shop.yang2020.com/collections/bumper-stickers/products/yanggang-decal


Andrew Yang is a lock for Math Club president…


https://shop.yang2020.com/collections/apparel/products/math-hat


But for actual president? Well, I wouldn't make plans for how you're going to spend your $1,000-per-month Yang allowance just yet.

If you happen to be shopping for your dog, may I suggest this lovely "Dogs for Delaney" dog collar…


https://store.johndelaney.com/products/dogs-for-delaney-collar


John Delaney's definitely going to secure the canine vote with this kind of outreach. As for any human votes, that's another question entirely.

How 'bout this tastefully understated "Natural Canvas" Michael Bennet tote to remind you he's also still here?...


https://store.michaelbennet.com/michael-bennet-for-america-natural-canvas-tote/


Then again, it's a tote. So, it'll end up on the floor of your closet and you won't have it with you until that one random moment when you're out somewhere and you really need a tote bag. Just like Democrats will really wish they had a moderate when we're in the middle of the socialist nightmare of their creation.

Captain Planet himself, Jay Inslee recently dropped out of the race, but don't let that stop you from picking up what may be the greatest single item sold by anyone in this race…


https://store.jayinslee.com/elvis-the-elves-the-mystery-of-the-melting-snow-by-jay-inslee/


A children's book called Elvis & the Elves: the Mystery of the Melting Snow. Written and illustrated by Governor Jay Inslee. Talk about a whodunnit – how could that snow possibly be melting? Spoiler alert: it's because of evil, white, patriarchal capitalism. And Donald Trump.

Then there's the candidate who thinks you're a moron that can't pronounce his last name: Steve Bullock...


https://shop.stevebullock.com/collections/apparel/products/emoji-t-shirt


Get it? Bull. Lock. Oh, so that's how you say the name that sounds exactly how it's spelled.

There's another candidate who also thinks you need help pronouncing his last name…


https://store.peteforamerica.com/collections/apparel/products/boot-edge-edge-t-shirt


And he is definitely right about that. So, thank you, Pete "Boot Edge Edge." That helps.

Just outside the bargain bin section, but just barely, are candidates like Julian Castro and his "El Presidente" t-shirt…


https://store.julianforthefuture.com/julian-castro-loteria-card-white-tee/


When your last name's Castro, do you really want to go with a weird drawing of yourself as if you're a classic Latin American dictator on a postage stamp?

If you prefer a little "dark psychic forces" battling in your candidates, you'll love Marianne Williamson's "Turn Love Into a Political Force" rally sign…


https://store.marianne2020.com/collections/signs/products/love-rally-sign


"Turn Love Into a Political Force" would be an even better title for a Marianne Williamson album of 80s cover songs. And if you think I'm joking, then you haven't heard Bernie Sanders' classic 1987 folk album, We Shall Overcome. That's not a joke. Well, it is a joke, but it's also a very real thing.

Now, just a quick pause to consider the peculiar baby-wear that way too many candidates are selling…

…including Elizabeth Warren's trans-pride flag onesie. Let me get this straight – we can't force any gender on a child, because that's just cruel. But we can force a political advertisement on a baby? How do we know that baby is actually a Biden or Warren fan? The child may not even be a Democrat or a Socialist at all. That baby might self-identify as a Libertarian, or Republican, or even worse – a moderate Democrat.

Now to the premium items from the premium candidates. Elizabeth Warren – the candidate with the most honesty in her advertising…


https://shop.elizabethwarren.com/collections/apparel/products/impolite-arrogant-women-make-history-unisex-t-shirt

-AND-

https://shop.elizabethwarren.com/collections/drinkware/products/strong-american-unions-mug


Warren's merchandise reflects the woman herself – cold and humorless (watch her "This isn't funny" clip from the last debate here at the 4:27 mark). I'm sure she's really fun once you get to know her. Then again, maybe not.

Speaking of serious women, Kamala Harris wants to be president very badly for you, the people, as you can tell from her "For the People" poster…


https://store.kamalaharris.org/poster-for-the-people/


At $29.99 though, she's sure not charging "people's" prices. Of course, she might be having to pay royalties to a certain someone for riffing on their poster. Just saying.

For the race's number one socialist, there's a whole lot of capitalism going on in Bernie Sanders' campaign. He sells so many delightful items that it's hard to choose. But we did anyway. The most random item is this hundred-dollar, black, "Art of a Political Revolution – Artists for Bernie Sanders Coaches Jacket"…


https://store.berniesanders.com/collections/apparel/products/artists-for-bernie-coaches-jacket


Coaches across the land will be clamoring for this one. You know, since coaches are such a strong Bernie-socialist demographic.

If that's a little over your budget you might consider a "Feel the Bern" fanny pack, to help store all those government freebies you'll get from Bernie…


https://store.berniesanders.com/collections/apparel/products/feel-the-bern-fanny-pack


This is the only context in which you'll ever want to hear "feel the burn" and "fanny" in the same sentence.

And finally, from front-runner Joe Biden, we have this fine "Women's Fitted Biden Polo." Which is just about the best polo description ever…


https://store.joebiden.com/collections/apparel/products/biden-polo-womens-fit


It promises the kind of snug approach that Biden loves to provide women. Even when they don't ask.

This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.