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.
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11 Responses to The Headwind Against Conservatism (Part 1)

  1. Love this! Shared on Facebook and Tweeted!


  2. Oh boy, where to begin? Let us start with no.8. it was never designed for humans to be idle and wait for the apple to fall from the tree. The bible explicitly said, if no one is willing to work, let them not eat. Idleness was never encouraged and in fact all throughout the scriptures, hard labor and toiling is always rewarded. The parable of the worker even showed that results vary depending on skills. Now, if anyone doesn’t believe in moral Christian values, might as well strike out this comment because it is not gonna be applicable.

    If big brother insists on spreading the wealth, might as well go to the bank and bring along able bodied individuals who chose not to work and hand out your hard earned money. Why not spread the wealth to those who bring in the wealth? Reward the producers and hope that the lazy ones will be motivated. If you react violently to this comment it would be safe to assume that you are not working and milking the system for welfare money?

    Helping is one thing, enabling is another. We want productive, contributing citizens regardless of political affiliation , but like I said the sense of entitlement is stronger than taking pride with what hands can do.

    Give to Cesar what is due Cesar, but Cesar please take care of the money.They don’t grow on trees, and if you must bail out entities, bail out families who work their asses off but still can’t make both ends meet, alone pay the mortgage.

    I’m sleepy, it was fun ranting. thanks Jeff. Haters will be hating, but respond with your head not your heart. Goodnite .


  3. Naphtali says:

    First of all I agree with the Prodigal Daughter Pro.
    No. 3: The so-called separation of church and state has always been a miss-fit for me. It is a made up liberal asset. Use it whenever it needs to come in handy to keep God out of whatever. The truth is God forms governments; he is ultimately in charge. People ask, “I didn’t vote for that idiot? Why did God let him win?” Maybe God didn’t vote either and he certainly didn’t force anyone else to.

    For the most part, I agree with everything written by Thomas Sowell. The genius went from being a left winged or what you may called Marxist to a hard core conservative. Charles Krauthammer also has my vote. It also helps that Thomas Sowell and I were born in the same city ! LOL. Had to throw that one in.


    • Naphtali, I agree with you about Sowell & Krauthammer. Very soon I’m going to add some “Resource” pages to my blog that list all my favorite practitioners of conservatism (living & dead), with lots of links to their books and, in the modern cases, their video appearances and OpEd pieces. I will also list a bunch of liberal and progressive sources, to encourage folks to read those viewpoints in their own words to compare/judge for yourselves (for folks who haven’t made their mind up where they stand).

      Hey, you might be interested in getting the book “Writing from Left to Right — My Journey From Liberal to Conservative” by Michael Novak (an 80-year-old American Catholic philosopher and scholar). It just came out. I’ve purchased it based on hearing this interview of him, but haven’t read it yet.

      – Jeff


  4. Pingback: 11/16/2013: The Headwind Against Conservatism (Part 2) | Necessary and Proper Gov't

  5. Agree with all of it, but especially #6.

    The fact is human nature is evil. Since Adam and Eve chose to disobey God so they could be equal to Him in knowledge, we as a species have been rotten. What can we really expect from spiritual zombies, but …?

    People prefer to believe that they are good. Maybe their neighbor isn’t good and maybe they don’t see a lot of signs that human beings are good, but they personally are good, so someone else must be. Surely if good people work together, we can overcome all the bad in the world.

    The Founders understood that people are not good, and when flawed people work together to accomplish their flawed goals, bad things come about. Maybe those things have some good mixed in, but someone’s going to get hurt by the bad that’s inherent in anything human beings do. Knowing that, they created a government that was slow and inefficient and reformable, so that when we finally overcame the checks and balances and passed a sweeping piece of legislation in the hopes of accomplishing some good (cough, Prohibition) and then discovered we’d made a phenomenally stupid move, we could walk that stupidity back.

    As a country we have spent the last century not walking back stupidity, and thus it is very hard for people today to recognize the inherent ugliness of the human soul. And it is very hard to pull the rose colored glasses off people’s eyes without being ugly yourself.


  6. The Ed says:

    I too have to limit myself or I will have a comment that is longer than this blog. So I will just touch on #2. The power to govern attracts people who feel that they should be in charge. People in charge do not want restrictions on what they can do. For many years the Constitution was rigidly enforced. But the politicians have applied the reverse of Lincoln’s maxim “The best way to repeal a bad law is to enforce it strictly.” The have taken good law, the Constitution and enforced it in a lax fashion. While the Constitution has not been repealed, it is no longer in effect. The result has been a lot of bad law passed by Congress which is enforced in a manner that the Executive branch desires.


  7. pushinback says:

    I am a Canadian that is very interested in your early American history. I find it sad that Americans don’t understand their own history ie. the separation of Church and State. In early American history colonist left England and the Netherlands to escape religious persecution. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland were three. This was the reason for the 1st Amendment. It was not that Jefferson or the Founding Fathers were against religion, they knew of the tyranny of one religion becoming too prominent and becoming a scourge to their peoples. If the Founding Fathers had wanted no religion practiced by the State then they would not have opened Congress with a prayer.


  8. xPraetorius says:

    Love it! Reading all four before commenting further.


    — x


  9. Pingback: 10/10/2015: Coalition Politics | Necessary and Proper

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