FreeRepublic.com has a long history as, ostensibly, a champion of conservatism. Certainly it would think of itself as a 'right-wing' website. But for a consistent conservative (that is, one grounded in the Judeo-Christian worldview, understanding how it works out in both social and economic spheres), it is clear that FreeRepublic is more left-wing now than right. It is a testimony to the fracturing and disintegration of the conservative movement that FR is even perceived as a conservative website.
FR was born as a reactionary website that gained fame as it rallied conservatives seeking the impeachment of Bill Clinton, but despite the efforts of many conservatives on the site (including myself, under the pseudonym Marathon), a consistent conservatism was never reflected on the site. For someone schooled on classics like The Theme is Freedom by M. Stanton Evans and Idols for Destruction by Herbert Schlossberg, the piecemeal conservatism and reactionary anti-liberalism of FR is a troubling phenomenom. People today call themselves conservatives not so much because they know what they are *for* as because they see something in liberalism that they are *against*. No wonder conservatism is all but dead in the 2008 presidential primaries of the Republican party.
To be a conservative is to find value in the conservation of Judeo-Christian values. It does not mean hanging on to the past, for many things in the past WERE bad. Liberals try to caricature conservatives with such a definition, and in the eyes of many (including many who call themselves conservatives), they have succeeded. But if conservatism just means maintaining the status quo and fighting change, it is really a pointless exercise that block (true) progress as well as decline.
No, real conservatism is about change just as much as liberalism; the difference is that conservatism aspires to values in a manner that is consistent and moral. For example, even liberal professors have found that conservatives give several times as much money to charities (including for causes like helping the poor), as do liberals. Yet liberals are widely perceived as being more "caring" towards poor people, not because they personally contribute to help them, but because they vote to force other people to pay money to the poor.
Thus the conservative pursues the goal of helping the poor within a moral context and a context of freedom (thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not seek to control other people's use of their own money) that is lacking in the totalitarian worldview of the liberal, where the hoped-for ends always justify the means.
This makes the conservative less utopian - we know we will always have the poor with us, for the ingredients that create poverty cannot be eliminated by brute force by any human institution. But it means consistent, REAL, conservatives will never victimize society in the way that liberals and their spin-offs (i.e., "neo-conservatives") invariably do.
Let us return to Free Republic. Let us mention a few values that I would consider basic elements of conservatism:
1. Because we are created by God, we are accountable to Him. Those who deny a creator cannot be "conservatives" because they have no objective moral framework or values to aspire to. They can selfishly create and pledge their allegiance to a set of values, but they will be arbitary. An atheist can say he loves Jews and try to save them from Nazis, or he can join the Nazis and try to eradicate Jews - either can be easily justified from an atheistic standpoint.
2. Because we are created by God, everyone around us deserves respect. Civility is vanishing in this age as conservatism vanishes, and for the same reason. Civility is hard work, and the need to cultivate it is connected to the value we place in the feelings of others. An atheist can choose to value others, but again, they can just as easily say that the chance products of mud+chance+natural selection that we call our fellow humans are perfectly worthless in their eyes.
3. Power comes from the people, not from central government. This principal was central to the founding of the American government. It means, for example, that people elect legislators to legislate (enact laws) - not judges. If a law is bad it is the duty of the legislators to fix it, not judges. If the legislators fail to do so it is the privilege, responsibility and duty of the people - not judges - to elect new legislators to fix the law. To saw judges should be able make and break laws is to make a mockery of representative government.
On FR today I just discovered that yet another of my pseudonyms had been banned (presumably for a perfectly mild comment that revealed me to be a Ron Paul supporter). I discovered this when attempting to respond on a thread reporting that a judge had tossed out a Texas law against the sale of 'sex toys.'
My concern here is not whether such a law is good or bad. That is a matter for Texas legislators and citizens. My concern is this: In the dozens of responses there was ONLY anti-conservative sentiment and expression posted. "Libertarian" (that is, licensarian) Freepers replied with delight, agreeing with the court that the legislation violated our "right to privacy."
Never mind that the "right to privacy" is an arbitrary fiction originally used to justify abortion, and as such is directly contrary to conservative principles. The idea that our bedroom or anything else is a "no-fly zone" for legislation is arbitrary nonsense. What we do in the bedroom probably has more profound effects on the world around us than virtually anything else we do (think about it), so sane societies have always sought reasonable legislation and customs/regulations in this area.
No one was outraged that the court was striking down a law - since they liked the judicial activism, they gave it a free pass. Opponents were vilified in terms that were, shall we say, disrespectful and uncivil. And they call this conservatism?
This is not an isolated case but the overwhelming norm. Occasionally amidst the sea of liberal thought and sentiment one sees a conservative opinion. Someone posts a vanity opining that having the government borrow money to give us so we can spend it, thus increasing inflation and national debt for a short-term stimulus - is nothing but a blatant attempt by current politicians to buy votes. A few people concur, pointing out that the stimulus package will also transfer money (a nice way of saying stealing, using the government as the thug), to many people who have not worked to earn that money. But such incidents are increasingly isolated.
Consider, for example, the case of Iraq. As far as I can tell, Marathon was first banned for voicing opposition to the Iraq war. But since when did invading a country that had never attacked us (except for one accident in the 80's when they were an ally), and had no reasonable means to do so, become a plank of conservatism? Republicans have for the past 5 years tried to endlessly confuse and obfuscate this simple issue, conflating the 9/11 attacks and bin Laden in Afghanistan with Hussein and Iraq. But Bin Laden and Hussein are two very different people, and Afghanistan and Iraq are two totally different places. And it seems very difficult for many Republican "conservatives" to understand this.
To say that those who believe the obvious about Iraq have been endlessly demonized on FR would be putting it mildly. (By "obvious" I mean: that the Iraq war has been a tremendously expensive boondoggle that has destabilized the region, inflamed hatred of us in the Mid-East and dislike worldwide, killed tens of thousands of Iraqi innocents and sent hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians and others fleeing, and sent the price of oil soaring, while Iraq's new democratic institutions quite naturally elect leaders who will be no friendlier in the long run to America than Hussein was.)
Never mind whether the surge "works." Is the end result worth the damage and effort? And please, spare me the conspiracy theories about WMD's. If a country invades you, you don't bury your most deadly weapons or ship them to your neighbor. You use them.
The Neo-conservatism that brought on the war is not conservatism, it is just a faction of liberalism that applies liberal tendencies to micro-manage and control lives to other countries rather than just ourselves. In the meantime, Bush and his Neo-Con allies have acted quite predictably, growing government like good liberals aways do, increasing entitlements and spreading bureaucracy as quickly as Clinton ever did. And we are supposed to be thankful because we strong-armed Bush into appointing two reasonably conservative justices to a Supreme Court that still refuses to actually take decisive steps to squash judicial activism.
McCain will not be worse than Bush, but he will certainly not be any better. And his track record of working with liberals makes him no better than Hillary or Obama when it comes to a Democrat-controlled congress. It would be folly to expect him to stand and fight them as president, when he has so often made a point of trampling conservatives and their ideals while a senator. He will not fight for conservative programs, and he will stand aside and let the Democrat majority have their way in implementing many liberal programs. The net effect will be the advance of the leftist agenda and power regardless of which party controls the presidency.