First a disclaimer: I have tried to write this post all week and think it needs to be said, but am not sure I have made my best go of it. Nonetheless, and for what it is worth, I hope I make some sense in this matter.
Now . . .
Let’s review our grammar for one moment. A noun is a word that defines what an object is, i.e. a dog. An adjective is a word that describes one attribute of the noun, i.e. the dog is brown. The noun is the dog because that defines the object in question and the adjective is the color of the dog, describing one attribute of the dog.
Christians, for example, typically say “I am a Christian” as opposed to saying “I am Christian.” The former sets the Christian into a defined group that believes in Jesus Christ. The latter describes one attribute of the person. Because Christianity typically defines who the person is, it is typically used as a noun, not an adjective.
I, for example, am a Christian before I am anything else. If you want an adjective describing me the Christian, I’d say I am Presbyterian.
I hope you are following me, because there are rough waters ahead.
Lately, we have collectively been saying a lot of people are conservatives, the noun, when we should be saying they are conservative, the adjective. Here is a good example:
George W. Bush is not a conservative. He is conservative, but not a conservative. While Christianity has certainly always defined who George Bush is, conservatism has not. Put another way in which I think we can all agree, George W. Bush’s gut instinct is a conservative one, but the fiber of his being is not that of a conservative.
I don’t mean to pick on a President I like, but it was Rush Limbaugh in 2005, who was the first real conservative (noun) to say George W. Bush was not a conservative, but had conservative instincts.
Here is where the trouble comes in — there is no rule to separate between the two. Congressman Kevin Brady sent out a press notice yesterday that said “House conservatives,” not “House Republicans”, would hold a press conference on the debt ceiling. The congressmen involved were Steve Scalise (R-LA), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Jim Jordan (R-OH), John Shimkus (R-IL), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Jack Kingston (R-GA), Mike Conaway (R-TX), John Fleming (R-LA), Eric Paulsen (R-MN), Chris Lee (R-NY), and “other House Conservatives.”
I am sure that each of these men is in some way conservative, some absolutely are conservatives, see e.g. Jeb Hensarling, but they are not all one of us. Several on the list are not by definition conservatives, but are by definition Republicans — it is the party that defines them and conservatism only describes one aspect of their being, some more than others.
Why am I even going here? It’s pretty simple really — we have a lot of people out there who call themselves conservatives who are not defined by their conservatism. Many Republicans who have conservative instincts, still put their party first. And that is where the relevance is — those more defined by their party put their party first and those more defined by their principles put their principles first. Compare and contrast say Jeb Hensarling with John Boehner or Jim DeMint with Mitch McConnell. Hensarling and DeMint are conservatives first and Republicans second. Boehner and McConnell are Republicans first and conservatives second. Hensarling and DeMint are more likely to fight for the principle and Boehner and McConnell are more likely to fight for an improved position for the party. That’s not to disparage Boehner and McConnell. Conservatism describes one aspect of them and if they can reconcile a conservative principle with improving their party’s position, they will not hesitate to do so.
I think we conservatives need to do a better job of finding people to run for office who are defined as conservatives, not as party men. It is no secret in Washington and something I myself have experienced that the people who show the most contempt for pro-life activists are not leftists, but Republican establishment leaders who think that, like children, pro-lifers need to be seen and not heard. The establishment thinks life issues do not help advance the GOP. Conservative leaders, however, embrace pro-lifers.
Sure, sure, for those of you who only pay attention to the theater, you see many a Republican politician pound the pulpit on abortion, but behind the scenes, when the curtain is down, they do everything they can to block the abortion vote from making it to the floor and into the public theater.
I want to beat the Republican Establishment. Charlie Crist is the perfect embodiment of the Establishment. One year he is anti-life. The next year he is pro-life. One day he is pro-stimulus. The next day he is anti-stimulus. But it is not just Crist. Across the nation, the Republican Establishment is support people who are not conservatives, but just have a conservative instinct (at least some of them do). Those instincts can change. It is much more difficult to change a total person than to change one attribute of that person. I want to beat these establishment guys with real conservatives.
You cannot tell me that freedom does not sell in New England. Conservatives fight for freedom. Republicans fight for Republicanism, but I have no freaking clue what that actually means any more.
Again, though, there is no hard and fast rule. I may view someone as a conservative noun and you may view same person as the adjective. It is difficult. But that does not make it impossible. I think we need to all pay attention to this. The easiest way I can think of is that a man defined by his conservatism, like a man defined by his faith, will fight for it. A man who has his faith as just an attribute or his conservatism as just an attribute, has many other attributes he can rely on and therefore will sometimes not fight when he needs to.
I’ve done my best to make some sense of this. I hope you have been able to follow along. It is important we start paying attention to the difference between the noun and the adjective.