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Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Social Conservative
by Bruce Walker
12 September 2003Arnold

Social conservatism means a serious fidelity to those beliefs and traditions which keep us civilized and decent.


Arnold Schwarzenegger 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.

Social 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 metaphysical beliefs. 

This 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. 

At the 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. 

That 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.

Joe Lieberman 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. 

The beauty 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. 

Arnold 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.

Who? 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.

Tony 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.

This 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.

He wants 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.

When 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
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