Social Question

josie's avatar

Just what do you mean when you call someone a "conservative"?

Asked by josie (29150points) January 12th, 2011

In a recent thread, a jelly referred to me (with clear disdain) as a “conservative”.
My friends and family would find this interesting.

I am an unabashed atheist.
I don’t care if women have abortions.
I don’t care if gay couples get legal recognition of their committment.
Although I have heard Rush Limbaugh say things that are funny, he is an epistemological intrinsicist, which is no better than the subjectivists that he ridicules.
I voted only once for young George Bush, and though I really did not dislike him, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and the other neo-cons around him were clearly a problem.
No one to date has come up with a social organization without government and taxes, and I accept both.

Maybe it is because I volunteered to to serve in the military, but I would protest against involuntary conscription.

I contribute to charity, because I have empathy for the poor and disabled.
I think it is OK to regulate where local banks can invest my money.

So I don’t think the “label” applies to me, and neither to my friends and family.
What does the label “conservative” mean to you.

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26 Answers

Qingu's avatar

Varies depending on the context, but mostly I mean that their views seem to line up with the modern Republican party. Sometimes this lumps in libertarians, since there’s a lot of crossover.

If I’m talking about the history of conservative philosophy, I would probably mean something else; in some contexts I would call myself (a proud Democrat) a conservative.

I apologize for calling you a conservative disdainfully. :)

john65pennington's avatar

A conservative never wears flipflops.

I must be one, since i cannot wear flipflops.

Judi's avatar

I think it often means “a narrow interpretation of the Constitution.”
It also used to mean thrifty spending practices, but politically it meant “thrifty spending practices except for military.”

ucme's avatar

Here in England town to be labelled a conservative usually means you’re a toffee nosed dickwad of a politician. Odious little creatures led by a twat named Cameron.

downtide's avatar

In the UK it would specifically refer to someone who supports, or whose ideals match up with, the Conservative party. In the US I would assume it means the opposite of Liberal.

thorninmud's avatar

Personally, I think of conservatives as having an ideology based on some past model that they take as an ideal, fixed and inviolable guide to the way things should be. One gets a sense that they see this “way things should be” as a settled matter, not open for debate.

I don’t want to get more specific, because I don’t necessarily think it boils down to what one thinks about specific issues.

josie's avatar

@john65pennington My point exactly. I wear flip flops whenever humanly possible.

JLeslie's avatar

Maybe you were perceived as conservative on the specific topic you were talking about on the other thread. I think I have had some conversations with you, that I felt you leaned, or lined up with the rights position on. But, hell sometimes I agree with the right also, or what I refer to as on some issues I am conservative. Personally, I get nerous when an individual thinks exactly the same on every issue their party is promoting, because to me it causes me to suspect the individual is not thinking for himsel., The problem in my mind is many people are using the word Conservative synonomously with Republican, and Christian Right, and they are not really words that are perfectly synonomous,

I think a conservative is someone who believes in individual rights, looks at history for proven systems and policies to use in the future, and fiscally a government that does not spend beyoung its means. The Republicans of today do not meet that criteria in my opinion. But, they identify themselves as conservatives.

tigerlilly2's avatar

I’ve always thought of a conservative as someone who is not open to change whereas a liberal is more open and accepting to change of any form.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@john65pennington Wait a minute… I wear flipflops and consider myself a conservative. OMG, I’m having an identity crisis now!

JLeslie's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate I know a few conservatives who do, you are not alone.

TexasDude's avatar

I think of it differently than most Flutherites.

Here are my brief conceptions of political terms as I have come to understand them and based on a lot of reading I have done.

Conservative: In the vein of William F. Buckley. Tradition-minded, advocate of small government, and so on. Has fallen into misuse as a descriptor of the modern Republican Party which is hardly conservative in itself, by this more traditional definition.

Neoconservative: The “boogeyman” of Fluther that a lot of Flutherites mistakenly (and because of common useage) describe as “conservatives.” Neoconservatives have little or nothing to do with old-school conservatism and are extremely authoritarian and often have a religious bent.

Liberal: Referring to Classical Liberalism with some ties to what is modern (little “L”) libertarianism. More freedom for more people. Compatible with old-school conservatism.

Neoliberalism: The modern, authoritarian conception of liberalism that is most often referred to on fluther and in the media as just plain “liberal.” The left-wing counterpart to Neoconservatism/big government-authoritarian liberalism.

@JLeslie, I think a conservative is someone who believes in individual rights, looks at history for proven systems and policies to use in the future, and fiscally a government that does not spend beyoung its means.

Yeah, me too. Modern Republicans are not conservatives, despite the frequency with which they use the term, and the frequency with which “liberals” use it as a disparaging term towards them. Great answer, by the way.

This shit is so convoluted and I’m well prepared to get flamed all to hell with people telling me how wrong I am.

Qingu's avatar

I disagree that modern Republicans aren’t “conservative” in some original sense of the word. Obviously they have deviated from the way Burke conceived the term, and later from the way Buckley did.

But Burke’s conservatism is rooted on a mistrust of sudden social or political change and a respect/trust for tradition, basically for tradition’s sake. This does still fundamentally defines the modern Republican party, regardless of the fact that they’re not “fiscally conservative.”

Now, I don’t think being conservative in the Burke sense means you are opposed to any and all change; I think Burke wrote that change is acceptable as long as it happens gradually, rather than through social upheavals and revolutions. So it’s possible to be a progressive conservative (and to some extent this is how I consider myself). Also, you can certainly argue that the original Republican party, the dudes who ran on outlawing slavery, were not conservative in this sense.

But if we understand “conservative” as basically meaning “opposed to change/wanting to conserve established traditions and institutions,” then this does apply to the modern Republican party.

TexasDude's avatar

This thread is surprisingly devoid of people being douchenozzles to each other. I’m proud of you, Fluther.

JLeslie's avatar

@Qingu That is sort of my point, Republican, Conservative, and Right Wing all mean different things, not to mention each term has evolved on its own. Your example of Republicans wanting to outlaw slavery, the tricky part is all of the Dems in the south who wanted to keep slavery defected to the Republican party some years ago.

I also think there is a good portion of the Republican party who are conservatives, but the right wing has tremendous influence in the party, so both types are bedfellows. Christian right, and big corporate, in the party. I used to find that ironic, since Christian values should not be so greed and money oriented, but now in the last 10 years the Christian church has promoted the idea of seeking wealth as being close to God, so I have given up that observation. The Democrats have some strange bedfellow also, don’t get me wrong. Both parties have people within it that seem a little incompatable or odd to me.

Qingu's avatar

It is interesting how transient the party labels, and to some extent the religious labels, are compared with the underlying ideologies.

JLeslie's avatar

@Qingu Yes it is. It is also interesting how the labels are taken. Whether someone finds them offensive. It seems to me no one wants to be labeled “right wing” would you agree with that? One group of our friends, there is this one guy who always seems to have to point out I am a liberal. I don’t like that he does it, because everyone is so flipping Republican here, they make a bunch of assumptions about me with that label. Now, many of the assumptions are true, but some are not. I prefer they ask me about a specific issue than make an assumption, and they have so much hate against the other side, while I feel most people agree on many things, even if they are aligned with the other party. At the same time, I willingly call myself a Liberal, especially liberal on social issues.

TexasDude's avatar

@JLeslie, It seems to me no one wants to be labeled “right wing” would you agree with that?

I’ve noticed a lot of libertarians have started using the term “right wing” to describe themselves in an effort to “reclaim” it as a descriptor of laissez-faire economics as opposed to the type of useage it typically sees.

JLeslie's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Really? I had not noticed that. Interesting. It seems to me the Right Wing and Libertarian leaning people identify with the Tea Party. Ironically, when the tea party started, I was interested in it, because it seemed they were very upset about the national debt, which is one of my cheif concerns, but then it took on a life of its own full of what I call right wingers. Anyway, I have said for years the Republicans should take back their party, the conservatives, and kick the Christian right wing the hell out. It seemed the Tea part might actually help split the party. Not so sure now. I kow people who left the Republican party, because of the Christian right stronghold, they would go back. At minimum they would more willingly vote Republican if they now identify Independent. I have said before I see the division more north and south than anything. I have more in common with a northern Republican than a southern Democrat generally. But that is generalizing of course.

TexasDude's avatar

@JLeslie, it may be a localized phenomena. The libertarians at my school and at the big state university have all started calling themselves “right wingers.” I’ve seen it on a few forums, too.

I felt the same way about the Tea Party and Republican party as well, more or less. I thought the Tea Party was going to be a great haven for little-l libertarians and classical liberals, like myself, until the religious circle jerk started. I guess people like their authoritarianism too much to let go of it.

wilma's avatar

Once again @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard said what I would say if I was as smart as he is.

MacBean's avatar

When I call someone a conservative, it’s usually meant to be a more polite term for “bigot.”

filmfann's avatar

Don’t let it get to you. On a recent question, someone called me a troll.

When I use the term Conservative, I usually mean Traditionalist. However, in the US, it can also mean Tightwad.

ETpro's avatar

I don’t think there are many true conservatives around any more. They have certainly been either marginalized or purged from an increasingly far-right Republican Party. Conservative means someone who favors tried-and-true solutions wherever practical. I am a conservative on some issues and a liberal on others.

Those who advocate dismantling the safety net that has served our elderly and poor for 60 years, getting rid of the Fed which was established almost 100 years ago, eliminating progressive taxation that has served us equally long and replacing it with a highly regressive tax system, etc. are no conservatives. They are radical revolutionaries bent of sweeping changes to the established a radical new political order.

iamthemob's avatar

I try not to use conservative as a noun, because, like liberal, I think it’s a four-letter word the way politics are today.

I’ll say “conservative rhetoric” which is kind of the way that @filmfann means it – a commitment to traditionalism, which prevents growth as a society in my perspective.

Conservative rhetoric fights for traditional marriage, small government, and Christian rights.

I prefer a traditional Republican method of governance – individual rights, responsible government, and religious freedom. Each of these ends up infringing on the other. So be it. But as much as I know my way of life isn’t for you, I also know for damn sure that your way of life isn’t for me. I’ll tolerate the way you want to do it, but you better do the same for me.

But as soon as one of us starts to change the other person, or puts the other in danger, that’s where the tolerance ends.

mattbrowne's avatar

When he or she shares at least 70% of the values advocated by these parties

and less than 30% of the values advocated by these parties

A moderate conservative and moderate liberal would be more in the 51–69% range.

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