Understanding and Overcoming the Headwind Against Conservatism (Part 1)

The political arena in America boils down to a competition of ideas between the two major political parties, influenced by the notable adjacent ideas of other smaller political parties.  This can cynically be viewed as an epic marketing battle.

Over the years, I have collected a list of ways in which the conservative movement struggles against a strong headwind of superficial platitudes blowing out of the liberal/progressive side.  As the saying goes…”A lie can travel half way ‘round the world before the truth gets its shoes on.”

Some items on my list are specific, but many are broad observations of trends and tendencies.  There are exceptions to each one, certainly.  To nit-pick them around the edges risks missing the bigger picture — the pattern.

The pattern is that liberalism is an ideology of emotion and utopian idealism, while conservatism is an ideology of logic and recognition of mankind’s natural limitations.  A common political observation during election years goes something like this:  “It’s impossible for Conservatives to outbid Liberals in an auction for desirable outcomes and gifts from government at somebody else’s expense.”

For conservatives, our principles don’t often lead us down the easy path.  Our ideology is not intended to be trendy, convenient, or instantly gratifying.  It’s based on time-tested tradition, and embodies what we think works best in the long run – often by prescribing short-term self denial.

Each item on my list could easily grow to be a stand-alone article, and many will.  For now, I’m trying – painfully squirming, actually — to be brief.  Each is just two sentences in four lines, or five if I absolutely had to “go long.”  For a wordy bloviator like me, this is pure hell.  But I want to emphasize how LONG the list of prejudices against conservatism really is.

As you read through the list, I think you’ll begin to feel a sense of the cumulative weight of all the items.  I invite you to do two things:

  • Think about what can be done, especially by you personally, to help level the playing field in each area through better explanation of and advocacy for our conservative principles.  In your sphere of influence, how can you invest the time on a regular basis to explain conservatism?  Not to other conservatives, and not to the deeply entrenched liberals, but to the fence-sitters?
  • Join me in marveling at the fact that, despite all these inherent disadvantages to explaining and defending conservatism, we are still doing quite well at holding our own in the political arena.


Here’s the first portion of my list:

1. It’s easy for liberals to claim a small number of smart intellectual elites can determine how to run our country.  It’s harder for conservatives to explain why so much power should not be placed into so few hands, and that distributed freedom to choose is better.

2. It’s easy for liberals to claim the Constitution is outdated and too restrictive for today’s modern society.  It’s harder for conservatives to explain that human nature – so well understood by the Founders – doesn’t change, and neither should the Constitution’s safeguards.

3. It’s easy for liberals to claim the 1st Amendment demands “separation of church and state.”  It’s harder for conservatives to explain the original intent of the 1st Amendment, which doesn’t even include those words.

4. It’s easy for liberals to claim our entitlement system can continue “as we know it” indefinitely.  It’s harder for conservatives to explain how demographics are flipping welfare upside down, with more people soon riding in the welfare wagon than pulling it, if not reformed.

5. It’s easy for liberals to distribute their marketing messages with favorable phrasing in the news and entertainment media.  It’s harder for conservatives to get their marketing messages out due to biased reporting and especially bias through omission and non-coverage.

6. It’s easy for liberals to claim the world would be more peaceful if America were nicer, and would defer to U.N. governance.  It’s harder for conservatives to explain the world will never be “nice,” America spreads democracy, and “Peace Through Strength” works.

7. It’s easy for liberals, with their master-planning mindset, to stay perpetually motivated towards activism, change, and social engineering.  It’s harder for conservatives, with their live-and-let-live mindset, to relentlessly communicate their firm belief in non-intervention.

8. It’s easy for liberals to claim that success and prosperity should be guaranteed to all citizens.  It’s harder for conservatives to explain that life rewards hard work, investment, ingenuity, and prudent risk taking, and we cannot afford to guarantee equality of outcome.

9. It’s easy for liberals to claim big government should be the solution to all problems.  It’s harder for conservatives to explain that a government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.

10. It’s easy for liberals to claim big institutions must be bailed out when the economic cycles plunge into recession.  It’s harder for conservatives to explain the moral hazard of using taxpayers as the guarantor against the risk of failure in the marketplace.


I invite you to pick one or two that stand out in your mind, and leave a comment.  If there are any that aren’t clear, let me know and I will clarify using a few more words.  For those you agree with, do you have an example or a strategy to share?  Or if you have one I didn’t think of, please submit it using the same template:  “It’s easy for liberals to….  It’s harder for conservatives to….”

I have more than 40 in all.  I will share another set in Part 2.

(photo credit)


About Necessary and Proper

Jeff believes in the Individual's ability to excel when liberty and freedom of choice are protected. Also believes in the Community's ability to take care of the vast majority of its own issues and needs when the federal government leaves the Community's resources and sphere of control alone. State and local choice produce better results than centralized federal control. https://necessaryandpropergovt.wordpress.com/
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9 Responses to Understanding and Overcoming the Headwind Against Conservatism (Part 1)

  1. J. C. Rutherford says:

    Jeff..I am finding that your observations of liberalism vs. conservatism all seem to have a commonality within themselves. It is also something I have been stating for a while. The common theme is that liberalism, as you have deftly pointed out, seems to generally follow a path of least resistance, much like water. The term I use for this, albeit somewhat obscure in its relationship with the topic, is “trendiness.” It seems to me the political views of the liberal mindset seem to follow topics of the day. Yesterday the topic may have been gay marriage. Today, it might be the problem dealing with the entitlement society we have created in this country. Tomorrow the new topic of interest could be how corporations or the wealthy are the evil forces against the small, meek average Joe or the legalization of illicit drugs or what ever the topic du jour may be. The arguments a liberal-minded individual might bring up are ones that can often be found repeated in major media outlets, or even around the watercooler, because it is much easier to feign empathy towards a particular view if the outcome means acceptance of one’s opinion by the group to which the argument is presented. Likewise, it is much harder to stand up to the popular view, and express a dissenting opinion to one that seemingly benefits the underdog, when it is clear that the expressed opinion may incur the wrath of the “all-caring” liberals. I do find that taking the more difficult path requires thoughtful diligence, critical analysis of benefit versus gain, and a very deliberate look outside of one’s own litte micro-environment to see the bigger picture. One great example of how the popular opinion affects us all is a look into the environmental movement. I’m very impressed with the vehmence of the argument to do away with the plastic option offered at the counter of almost every retail outlet in America. The intended outcome is to reduce the introduction of these plastic bags into landfills, or oceans or wherever they may wind up, because we need to be more responsible in our stewardship of the environment. But, I seem to remember a similar argument when these plastic bags were introduced some 30 or 40 years ago to stop the decimation of the tree population. Popular opinion seems to flow where it is most easily accepted, and what seems to produce the biggest effect on our collective conscience.


    • OregonDD says:

      Oh, my! All of your points are well taken. I agree with them all. Solution? I would love to see a national conservative newspaper on the vein of USA Today. However, are there any true conservative journalists out there?


      • Thanks, DD.

        I have over 30 more of them on their way.

        By the way, these are in random order…just because I’m numbering them doesn’t mean they’re ranked. Stay tuned over the next couple weeks for Parts 2 through 4.

        – Jeff


    • J.C. (yo, bro!)

      Regarding shopping bags, another “oops, we didn’t think of that” revelation was that the canvas or cloth re-usable shopping bags get gnasty inside and people are getting sick from the bacteria that accumulates there.

      Your overall comment does a great job of elaborating what I meant in this paragraph: “For conservatives, our principles don’t often lead us down the easy path. Our ideology is not intended to be trendy, convenient, or instantly gratifying. It’s based on time-tested tradition, and embodies what we think works best in the long run – often by prescribing short-term self denial.”

      I like your comparison of the liberal ideology to “water,” flowing through the easiest path, and always ready to re-route itself if another easy path emerges.

      – Jeff


      • J. C. Rutherford says:

        Thanks, Jeff. Coincidentally, I was listening to a major talk radio host today, and the topic of his commentary was how liberals seem to adjust their opinion to gain acceptance by those whom they believe are the very people who determine what is acceptable, sort of an off-the-cuff slam to the elitists and other types. His example was the comparison of the trailer of a movie that few people even knew about causing riots and protests against Americans versus a movie by Bill Maher called “Religulous” in which Maher rails agains Islam for 20 minutes, and there is not even a twitch in the media about this. The hardest arguments to voice and stand up for seem to have deeper roots in the principles we hold dear, rather than a false morality just to be accepted into popularity.


  2. Steph Nelson says:

    Great post, Jeff!

    Separation of church and state is near and dear to my heart, so I appreciated #3. I cannot believe how few people even know the context of Jefferson’s correspondence with the Danbury Baptists. But what is even more frightening is that we as a nation are content to allow the Constitution to be misinterpreted and undervalued so blatantly. Which you addressed in your second point. All of your points were made very well. Thank you for posting this.

    – S


  3. davidwithastick says:

    These points of yours are fodder for a full-on book. Just sayin’.

    #1 & 2 together have to do with limited government and shared power across several branches. I argue this point with some liberal friends by making this analogy:

    Let’s say you and I are next-door neighbors. We get to know each other well, and because we’re like-minded and seem to have a lot in common or share a lot of the same concerns, you learn to trust me so much that you place in my care a set of keys to your house, and grant me access whenever I may need it. You know I’m not going to abuse the trust or the privilege.

    And then one day, I sell my house, and a new person moves in next door to you. Instead of giving the keys back to you, I’ve passed them on to the new guy. You don’t know him, and actually as time goes on, you find him difficult to like, mostly because he likes to use those keys I left for him. He comes into your house regularly to use the phone, grab a gallon of milk and to do laundry since he doesn’t have a washer, yet. You’re relieved when he puts the house up for sale and hope he’ll give the keys back.

    He doesn’t. He passes them on to the new guy who stays out of your house for the most part, which makes you pretty happy. What makes you extremely unhappy is that this new guy has some friends who don’t have a TV. So he lets THEM into your house. Frequently. He’s also said they can grab a few groceries while they’re there, since you can afford them, and they are often short on cash.

    This is how political power goes, too. The liberty you give up to this administration because of your trust and ideological compatibility, gets passed to the next. Regardless of how compatible the new administration is, they won’t honor the original agreement because they don’t know you. And since the pendulum often swings the other direction, the power you allow the government is likely to be wielded by your political enemy in the not-too-distant future.

    Isn’t it better to just keep as much of your own personal liberty as possible by doing what the founders completely understood: Limit the power of the government.


    • And it’s also better to limit the tendency of citizens to confuse statutorially-granted entitlements with unalienable rights. All those people in your hypothetical scenario believed they had a right to partake of entitlements at others’ expense because they’ve bought into the validity of “freedom from want” that FDR declared as a new “economic right.” That’s the meaning of item #17 (in Part 2 of this article), and also see my August 2nd article The Federal Gov’t Isn’t #1 In Our Lives for a quote of FDR.
      In fact, FDR’s full State of the Union speech from January 11, 1944 is worth reading to understand what a significant departure from originalism he encouraged that day. Some call that speech the Second Bill of Rights. It’s tragic that such a philosophically harmful declaration is viewed so favorably by so many in our society.
      – Jeff


  4. In the short run, vice is always an easier sell than virtue…that’s what makes them vices.

    The success of the left is based on a rather odd mix of instant gratification and a promise of a Utopian society sometime in the future.

    As to another one of your premises..yes, conservatives need to stick together and spread the word to those “in need”.

    I look forward to sharing ideas in the future.


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