Political labels

By DaveAtFraud - Posted on 13 January 2010

I'm a registered Republican but I more tolerate the Republican Party than I am a real supporter. In a previous article I described myself as being a small "l" libertarian since I also have lots of practical issues with the Libertarian Party even if I agree with them philosophically.

Not being a good fit for either the Republicans or the Libertarians and being almost totally opposed to the goals of the Democratic Party leaves me in search of a short but accurate and descriptive political label. The label I recently came up with and want to try out for a while to see how well it fits is Secular Conservative.

What gripes me the most about the Republican Party is the extent to which it has become the Fundamentalist Christian Party. I have two problems with this. First, because the Republican Party has become so closely aligned with the fundamentalist Christian movement, the perception has become widespread that only fundamentalist Christians are welcome in the Party which tends to exclude a number of people who might otherwise agree with a conservative philosophy (e.g., me). Second, a number of fundamentalist Christians seem to think that the government should enforce their version of the truth and morality on others. This further alienates people who are believe in philosophically conservative values like self reliance and individual responsibility but who are not fundamentalist Christians.

Throwing some stones in the other direction, I have my gripes with the Libertarian Party, too. Besides the practical problems I have with the current Party (as described in my earlier post regarding being a small "l" libertarian), I also feel that they have a totally unrealistic view of human nature and the ability of people to act responsibly. This isn't just at the individual level but is also at the corporate level. As long as individuals and corporations can escape the consequences of their actions, we will need a government that intervenes to make sure that both individuals and corporations can not pollute the air, the water and the land and then leave the mess for their neighbors or future generations to clean up. Nor do they perpetrate scams and other schemes to separate people from their money without returning fair value.

What I hope to accomplish by calling myself a secular conservative is to stake out an inclusive middle ground that recognizes that conservative values don't have to come from the Bible (or some other hole book). I believe that a self-reliant citizenry that takes responsibility for their own actions and livelihoods is a self evident good thing that doesn't need a deity to proclaim its goodness. Likewise, I sadly believe that a small portion of our citizenry will sink to the lowest level is search of a fast dollar unless the government makes such actions illegal and enforces an appropriate level of social responsibility.

What I like about calling myself a secular conservative is that I get to pick and choose my political positions based on either a conservative or a libertarian position as I see fit where the two disagree. Where the two agree fits squarely with my own philosophy that led me to describe myself as a small "l" libertarian. That is, I strongly believe in a small, limited government that relies on a free market economy to provide the best possible world to the overwhelming majority of the nation. Unlike the Libertarians, I believe that this government can and should intervene in the economic sector but only when it has been amply demonstrated that a free market solution does not and cannot work. Likewise, this government should only interfere with the private lives of individuals when a compelling social need exists.

My position as a Secular Conservative harkens back to my perception of Ronald Reagan's presidency when the conservative dog wagged a fundamentalist Christian tail. Now the tail wags the dog and those who would like to see self reliance, individual responsibility and limited government are stuck with supporting outrageous positions and politicians because they are acceptable to the fundamentalist right. I'm not going along with this absurdity any longer and thus I proclaim myself to be a secular conservative. Hopefully, others will agree with me.


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My take is that the overwhelming majority of people both in this country and around the world profess to follow a religion. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is beside the point. The reality is that they do. Still, I don't see that as an obstacle to carving out a political position called "secular conservative."

Where I'd like to go with "secular conservatism" is to bring the role of religion in the political sphere back to where I see it fits for the great majority of people in this country: as a personal and private guide. I don't know if that means that an atheist could get elected but it means that various moral litmus tests belong strictly to the fundamentalists and not as part of the platform of a major political party.

My thought is that there is a sizeable majority of people who don't identify with either the semi-socialist, nanny state that seems to be the goal of the Democratic Party nor the theocracy that the fundamentalists have coerced the Republican Party into embracing. These people also don't identify with the vision of the Libertarian Party of almost no government. That leaves me and a lot of others in a philosophically muddy middle ground that sounds a lot like the Republican Party of the 1950s. I don't think that that is a bad thing and I don't think it differs a lot from a libertarian stance (note the small "l"). We all just need a simple political label like secular conservative that sums it up.