ObamaCare and the confused constitution of conservative identity
At a town hall meeting last week, Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) was asked a question: Would he support Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in their effort to defund ObamaCare? The congressman's response was direct: "No... why do you fight a battle you can't win?"
A conservative woman rose up in anger and said, "We need to show the American people we stand for conservative values." Her point was passionately made. Conservatives in the crowd reacted with applause. But step back a moment and ask yourself: Is this defund brinkmanship truly an implicit representation of conservative values?
The shield of "conservative values" has a brilliant if narrow political quality. It allows resistance to liberalism without the need for an alternative. It allows statements to skirt contradiction without challenge. It excuses intellectual laziness.
But it also bears a cost. It dilutes the conservative brand.
Faced with growing sectarianism, conservatives need to know what conservative values are. And a quixotic quest to defund a three-year-old law... well, how is that obviously conservative? "Conservative values" mustn't simply be a calling card for conservative anger.
Let's take a moment and identify those conservative values that are universally supported by conservatives.
Individual responsibility: Liberals believe that government should provide an expansive, supporting foundation for individual endeavor. We believe that individuals bear prime responsibility for their lives and deserve the rewards and risks born of their conduct.
Small government: Liberals believe that government should play a substantial role in serving the common good and should re-allocate resources to that end. In contrast, we believe that private enterprise and community action best provide for social fulfillment.
De-centralization of power: Liberals believe that a central government should support state and local services. In contrast, we believe that local power is the more responsive servant to social needs.
These are conservative values. Let's not forget it.