is a social conservative, despite much rhetoric to the contrary. Social conservatism
means a serious fidelity to those beliefs and traditions which keep us civilized
and decent without resort to laws, regulations and bureaucrats.
conservatism is a respect for tradition and for values which have withstood
the test of time. Chinese family members who respect and support one another,
even at the cost of personal wishes, are social conservatives whatever their
definition of social conservatism as a matter of example rather than profession
does not mean we agree on every detail of moral behavior. It means instead
that we root ourselves in something permanent, dignified and civic.
Even eccentricity can be socially conservative. British and American peoples
are famous for producing men who, for want of a better term, are cranks.
That is very much a part of the culture of these two nations.
heart of social conservatism is fidelity. Often men who are social conservatives
are ideologically left of center. Jimmy Carter is a good example. By all
appearances, Carter took his marital vows seriously and his religious faith
seriously. He stopped serving hard liquor at White House dinners.
did not prevent Carter from being a petty, spiteful and almost insufferable
boor. And it certainly did not prevent Carter from being wrong on almost
every issue. But it does mean that Jimmy Carter was a social conservative.
is also a social conservative, even if he supports terrible policies. Every
indication is that Lieberman is a religiously serious Orthodox Jew. It is
impossible to imagine Joe munching a bacon cheeseburger on Kol Nidre. Bill
Bradley is another social conservative who loves his wife, gained his wealth
and fame through guts and hard work, and sincerely believes in all the bad
ideas he proposes.
of America, of course, is that social conservatism does not require being
correct as much as being sincere. It does not require conformity to a particular
catechism so much as it means conformity to some catechism.
The bewildering variety of religions, sects, and societies in American life
is a testament to Americans respecting in social life the same freedom to
be wrong that we respect in our economic life. Indeed, social conservatism
is another form of market choice which helps, through competition, to elevate
cultures and traditions within America.
Schwarzenegger is made of the "right stuff.” There is no odor of phoniness
about him. He loves his wife and family. He worked his way to the top with
sweat and diligence. He resembles a number of other social conservative Republicans
around President Bush who are not generally recognized as social conservatives.
How about Colin Powell? He turned down the Presidency itself in 1996 out
of respect for his wife and family. Does anyone question that what Powell
believes, he believes sincerely? How about Tom Ridge, who was too liberal
to be the running mate in 2000, but who putters around his home for recreation
and grew up in the Marine Corps.
Blair and Rudy Giuliani are social conservatives who we seldom see as social
conservatives. Both these heroic figures do what they do publicly and because
they believe it is right. Thank goodness both are on our side now--social
conservatives dig their heels in very deeply!--but even when Giuliani supports
abortion or Powell supports affirmative action, they can do so looking you
straight in the eye with a polygraph examiner unable to detect a hint of
spin in their answers.
type of social conservative--guys doing what they think is right because
they think it is right--is precisely the sort of man that President Bush
has shown incredible skill in using to make America better. Our Texan President,
our proudly Cowboy President, does not demand that anyone agree with him
on every issue. In fact, such silly boys can be skimmed off the corporate
boards of a hundred big companies.
people who are true to themselves. He wants, and we should want, real social
conservatives. Rabbis who read Torah as if it were holy writ. Priests who
take their vows seriously. Men who honor their parents and are faithful to
their wives. Men like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ronald Reagan or John Wayne,
who will fight for what they think is right.
Governor Schwarzenegger takes office, President Bush will find honor more
valuable than agreement and grit more important than obedience. It will be
a winning team, perhaps a team that can transform America.
Bruce Walker's articles can be found at the Conservative Truth.