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Just how conservative are you?

April 25, 2016

Words are funny things.  No matter how narrowly dictionaries seek to define them, no matter how much political correctness corrupts their original meaning, and no matter how many new ones common usage creates, they are still imprecise.

Charles Koch, the conservative billionaire and heretofore reliably GOP financier is slamming all the GOP candidates while suggesting Hillary Clinton might be a better president than any one on the GOP side.

Two of the GOP candidates have vowed to work together to deny Donald Trump votes and delegates because he isn’t a “real” conservative.

So exactly what is a conservative? More to the point, what does “conservative” mean to you?

Dictionary.com defines the word thusly:

As an adjective:

  1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.
  2. cautiously moderate or purposefully low; as in a conservative estimate.
  3. traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness:

Of course the word has also come to be used as a noun, as in “conservatives vow to boycott convention.”

Asking  25 random people, aged 18 to 72,  what was their first thought was when they hear the word conservative  elicited some interesting results.

Some of you hear this: Pro-life, anti-woman, religious, anti big-government, racist, puritanical, fiscally responsible, stingy, old, religious zealots, and greedy.

And those are just the ones that are printable for a general audience.

Clearly, since none of those match up all that well with the dictionary meaning, we tend to imbue words with our own opinion and experience.

That’s a lot of what is driving the divisions in this election.

We tend to hear what we want to or have been educated to hear.

Thus one side of the professional political spectrum hears “income equality” and thinks “tax the rich” while the other side hears “grow the economy.”

The GOP in particular doesn’t quite seem to get it when it looks at the people that they consider their base.

Real people hear conservative or liberal and think “These labels aren’t  working for me anymore.”

It would seem that most Americans are somewhere in the middle, particularly  when it comes to social issues.

What seems to be happening is that voters are telling their parties to wake up and look at the world through the voter’s eyes.

Perhaps it would behoove the politicians to think of some different labels.

Even better, maybe it’s time they did more listening and less labeling.

From → op-ed

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