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Who is a conservative?

By Bernard Chapin
web posted May 3, 2004

Late last month weekend I attended the annual Chicago Conservative Conference for the third time in four years. A wealth of valuable information was imparted, but the main thing I walked away with was an understanding as to who exactly is a conservative in our society today.

The demographics of the attendees would have made our critics snicker as the great majority were white males -- the scourge of the multicultural cabal [in fact, one speaker joked that the only way for us be accepted within the victim culture was to consider becoming homosexuals]. A sprinkling of African-Americans, and even one Sikh, were present but most of the attendees fit the conservative racial stereotype and a few even wore bowties to better announce the fact.

By my count, no more than 90 were present, and, as The Nation magazine might have predicted, most hailed from the suburbs. One person said that the average Chicago Republican gathering should be entitled, "Let's Meet, Greet and Retreat."

It gave earthy types like me a rare opportunity to rub shoulders with politicians and this is something that I recommend for everyone as it makes you realize just how abnormal you have to be in order to win an election nowadays.

During a lunchtime presentation by candidate Jack Ryan, I happened to ask the fellow seated on my left if he thought the JFK Junior look alike had a chance in November. This individual happened to be a state senator and, after he gave me a friendly greeting before lunch, I didn't think anything of asking him a simple conversational question. He eyed me wearily and appeared uncomfortable. He said, "Well I don't know who you are. I see you writing all that stuff down in your notebook. Who are you with? I'd rather not discuss that topic with you at this time." Rather than explain to him "who I was or who I was with," I decided to write his exact words down in my memo pad instead.

Can you imagine having to go through life and needing to know an individual's curriculum vitae before providing them with inconsequential opinions? You know he's going to say Ryan has a chance no matter what he really thinks. That's why he's a conservative senator at a conservative conference. But, just to make him feel better, when we went around the room and introduced ourselves, I made sure to only mention my name, ideology and National Hockey League fan affiliation.

The second city is a profoundly liberal place so I often experience feelings not only of joy but of disenchantment when I unexpectedly encounter my own kind. The excessive time I spend with Democrats every day makes it inevitable that I should idolize my fellow conservatives, but my morale always plummets when I encounter some that I dub, "Not my kind of Republicans." It's rare but I have met a few whose sole purpose in voting for the elephant is that they view their hole punch as giving them with membership into some kind of swanky club.

Then, even though I expend considerable typographic exertion claiming that the "religious right" is pure fantasia, every once in awhile I run into a stray conservative who interrupts our policy discussion with a question about the way in which I am cementing my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If other people are around, I whisper, "Look, it's okay to say that kind of stuff to me but don't bring that into general conversations with strangers, or, if you do, deny voting at all if they should they ask."

Yet it all goes to show that, other than complexion, we conservatives are an ideologically diverse group indeed. No one I know could be labeled or slandered as being part of any fictional "white power elite." Like many of our readers, I am a part of the new and vibrant conservative subgroup known as, "South Park Republicans." We embrace anything that is politically incorrect and possess all the profanity and vulgar tastes that the name of the show connotes.

A more traditional Republican once said of my blog, "Isn't it sad that you have to post pictures of scantily clad women just to get people to look at your site." I paused for a moment knowing that this had to be handled delicately. I told him, "I like looking at pictures of partially nude women. It's a cheap endorphin rush and far less costly (and less inclined to press stalking charges) than the genuine article."

However, other than acknowledging that my friends and I are unsavory characters, there is a profound and unspoken truth discernable within my exchange with that traditional Republican. Being proud of, or at least accepting, our biological weaknesses and the inherent flaws of human nature is very much of what it means to be a conservative today.

On both the political and the personal level, the left can be easily juxtaposed with us. They emit puritanical self-righteousness and deny that discrepancies will always be intrinsic to the communal life of man. The belief that paradise is only a few rules, regulations, or protests away is a distinctly leftward one. Conservatives know that our species cannot be perfected. We accept it; we process it, and then we get on with our lives.

Just the other day, after I mentioned that my gender and race could have an adverse effect on the procurement of a new job, a girl suddenly asked, "You're not a conservative are you?" This surprised me but I guess it really shouldn't have, as an inherent part of being a liberal is that you stress the importance of affirmative action while simultaneously denying that it might have some impact on who actually gets hired or promoted in this world.

I decided to give her my standard speech as a response. I told her, "Yeah, I'm a conservative. There's a lot about America we should conserve. What is it we lack? Plentiful food? Public beheadings? Death by stoning? Man abandoning woman by saying ‘I divorce you three times?'"

Holding that America is place worthy of conservation is certainly a unifying theme for those of us on the right. But what else unites us? On a global level, in my opinion, there are five core beliefs we share:

  1. America is a land that must be defended against foreign threats.
  2. Western civilization has been a force of good on this earth.
  3. We should look to ourselves for answers as opposed to the government (at least in the majority of situations).
  4. The average person has worthwhile opinions that should be respected and taken into consideration when politicians make decisions regarding the future of this country.
  5. There are no utopias and there never will be. Human nature is innately flawed and the society we live in should reflect this reality.

These five tenets can be easily defended by anyone with little more than common sense at their disposal. That's one of the reasons why we've been so successful in the recent past and hopefully will be in the future.

The essence of having a legitimate political movement is overlooking small differences between one another and subordinating the competing needs of groups in the attempt to preserve the sanctity of our nation. Conservatives are the only ones who can effectively do this. We don't assign separate values to people as if they're meals in a weight watchers plan. We treat Americans, all Americans, with respect and we must point this out to the general public at every opportunity.

Bernard Chapin is a writer living in Chicago. He can be reached at bchapafl@hotmail.com.

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