From the "Civics 101" file.
Garrison Keillor, via Missouri Mule...
Conservatism is a powerful strain in American life that ordinarily passes as common sense. Save for a rainy day. Don't foul the nest. Don't burn your bridges. Don't sacrifice the future for short-term profit. But when it contradicts itself and becomes weighted down with bigotry and cynicism, then it doesn't hold water anymore.Of course, the small 'c' conservatism that Keillor's talking about is more a matter of temperament than ideology. Prudence, modesty, restraint - these are all characteristics that are perfectly compatible with ideological liberalism, characteristics, in fact, displayed at some level by virtually everyone who hews to a liberal ideology. If fact, aggressiveness, bombast and short-sightedness, seemingly the antithesis of the temperamental conservatism, seem to be primary characteristics of contemporary ideological Conservatism.
That distinction, temperament vs. ideology, is a source of semantic confusion that. I believe underlies the reason so many Americans self-identify as conservative when polled, yet fundamentally liberal programs like Social Security or fundamentally liberal policies like a public health care option remain so popular. Similarly, many people will say they are conservatives because of their support for a free market, without understanding at all that a free market economy is an innovation of liberal government, and a far cry from the monopoly capitalism that lies at the end of the Conservative rainbow.
It's a semantic distinction, but it cannot be dismissed as "just semantics." In this case, semantics matter, and the confusion is emblematic of a failure of civic education in the United States. It's pretty hard for people to self-govern if they don't understand their government, where it came from and who the opposition to that government - our government - really is.
(The rest of the Keillor peice is well worth a look, too.)