I had the most interesting exchange with a dear friend yesterday, one that gave me real "Hope" for the future of our Country. Now as I've said before many of my friends have little or no interest in 'Politics' or what they call "The News", this person falls squarely in that category. Because she is such a Good Friend, however she expresses interest in the things that I'm involved in, such as the Tea Party. Since she had been out of the country during the big Protest, she wanted to know how it went. As I bubbled with enthusiasm, spilling out the details, on my pride in my country, about the success and joy of seeing around 5000 of my fellow citizens, standing out in the Rain and holding signs, she started looking more and more perplexed...
First she asked, Now what exactly were you protesting again...and I explained that We were protesting our Government's wasteful spending, high taxation and Demanding that they return to Fiscal Responsibility. Upon hearing this, she began nodding but continued to look inquisitive. Finally, she asked with just a hint of trepidation, "You're a Republican, aren't you?" I could tell my answer was being anticipated, so I responded: "Yep, The Conservative kind." God bless her, she respects our friendship enough to try and mask her shock, it was clear that even through her limited access to political speak, my dear friend has been taught that "Conservative" is a dirty word.
Her follow up question, rendered the consequent exchange, which put a fine point on the problem we Conservatives face:
Her: Really, You are a Conservative?
Me: Yes I consider myself to be very Politically Conservative
Her: (Looking confused) I kinda picture Conservatives as well...um...
Her: Um, Yes.
So there you have it, in the mind of the average American, Conservatives are equivalent to those that choose to live without electricity, cars, and store bought clothing.
Now a little background, this wonderful woman and I have been friends for nearly 10 years. We've worked together, had countless lunches and personal conversations, yet I think she was truly Shocked to find out that She had a Real Live Conservative friend in her midst all this time, and never realized it. Why? Because I'm fooling everyone by having cable, Internet, driving my car to and fro and wearing skirts that are above the knee!! My addiction to both American Idol and Gossip Girl, has worked as a fantastic cover for my secret life!!
I took the opportunity to very briefly mention that my Conservatism was based in a belief in limited government, with a focus on individual rights. That my involvement with the Tea Party was a result of my disdain at our Government's wasteful spending and lack of connection with The People. I also told her that while pretty much all of the 'Religious Right' was Conservative, that not all 'Conservatives' are Religious. Having said that the two can exist in harmony inside the Republican party because, true Conservatism respects the Rights of all individuals to worship however they see fit.
She mused as she nodded, "yes, limited government is good, no one wants total government control...' and on the Religious comment"uh-huh that makes sense" She then looked right at me and said, "You know I don't follow this, but What is the big deal with Gay Marriage? Can't they just go to a Lawyer?" This cracked me up, one because She never I mean never brings up political topics, and two because I had just written my first Gay Marriage post ever, the day before, in which I suggest that "All the 'issues' brought up by Gay Marriage advocates, can be solved with a quick trip to a Lawyers office.."
At that very moment we began our Very First 'political' discussion about Gay Marriage of all things, where we realized we were both on the same side. Some that probably honestly surprised us both equally....
Interestingly enough, over at HotAir.com, I came across a link to an article by Matt Allen over at TownHall.com, called The Case for Cosmopolitan Conservatism. In it the the Author successfully makes the argument that Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and others were effective, while remaining Conservative, because they knew how to relate to all people thus making them, "Cosmopolitan Conservatives", not to be confused with Cocktail Party Republicans, which are another breed entirely.
Lewis credits this "Cosmopolitanism" as the secret to their Success and Popularity:
It's also interesting to note that politics was a second career for both Kemp and Reagan. They had both enjoyed successful, high-profile, careers before getting involved in the business of politics. This exposed them to people of different races, income levels, backgrounds, etc. Both were also involved with unions -- in the case of Reagan it was as head of the screen actor's guild and in the case of Kemp it was the AFL Players Association.
If you stop to think about it, some of the conservative movement's most effective advocates have been quite cosmopolitan. Charlton Heston, the acclaimed film star who marched with Dr. King and went on to lead the NRA, was a terrific conservative spokesman -- as was William F. Buckley, the enfant terrible of the conservative cause, who, though not a movie star or famous athlete, was a wealthy and erudite conservative who essentially lived like a movie star.
I'm not sure I'm so fond of the term "Cosmopolitan", primarily because that term sounds almost as dated as "Conservative", but the author makes a point. Conservatism is most successful, when Conservatives are able to communicate their message to the masses. I know Shocking Right? Effectively communicate a believable message and people respond to it, Who would have guessed?
The bottom line is that for too long Conservatives have allowed Liberals and their cheerleaders in the Media, to frame our Image in their own terms and definitions. If we are truly going to be successful in resurrecting the Conservative movement, we must take ownership of our Label, and begin reeducating America about what it really means to be a "Conservative".
A man who has yet to disappoint me, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), has written a piece for the Wall Street Journal, that I consider a great start for both Conservatives and the Republican party as a whole:
Moderate and liberal Republicans who think a South Carolina conservative like me has too much influence are right! I don't want to make decisions for them. That's why I'm working to reduce Washington's grip on our lives and devolve power to the states, communities and individuals, so that Northeastern Republicans, Western Republicans, Southern Republicans, and Midwestern Republicans can define their own brands of Republicanism. It's the Democrats who want to impose a rigid, uniform agenda on all Americans. Freedom Republicanism is about choice -- in education, health care, energy and more. It's OK if those choices look different in South Carolina, Maine and California.
I like Senator DeMint's choice of the term Freedom Republicanism, simply because it highlights the real basis of Conservatism and the GOP: Individual Rights, Free Market Principles, Limited Government, all protected by strong National Security...you know Freedom. That's what we're really all about isn't it?
Now to be honest I wouldn't anymore refer to myself as a "Freedom Republican" anymore than a "Cosmopolitan Conservative", but I happen to find myself in both camps. Labels can be tricky that way....I personally feel like it's high time we peeled back the labels to find out what is really inside, and I think most Americans would be surprised to find out what category they might find themselves in....
Now back to that conversation with my friend...I don't know if my friend even voted in the last election, but I do know that after our conversation today, she's One person who is going to look at Conservatives and even Republicans differently than she ever would have before, so in my world that is a win. One Down, 60 Million to go.