Ronald Reagan hijacked the term “Conservative” and twisted it to his own political purpose. Remember his famous quote, something like this: “Government does not solve the problem, government is the problem.” The dingbats get goosebumps every time they hear that quote. More military they say, but less government. The government should leave my social security alone. The government should leave my Medicare alone. Dingbats. I am a Teddy Roosevelt conservative and I am proud.
In the 1970’s I helped circulate a petition for a ballot initiative to raise funds for the Missouri Department of Conservation with a 1/8 cent sales tax. That initiative was successful and the tax was implemented in 1976. Missouri now has one of the finest Conservation Programs in America. And it took a bigger government to manage the programs.
Is this to say that I am some tree hugging liberal protecting the refuge of the snail darter is remote creeks in dark forests? No – I am a conservationist – in nature, in economies, in justice, and in society. I believe we should conserve the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Some find that to mean making a lot of money and driving fancy cars, other believe it means they can commune with nature in the peace and tranquility of a protected forest.
Teddy Roosevelt tripled the size of national parks and national forests. Do you suppose that was done while making the government smaller? How about that Federal Parks Service? A model of efficiency and a symbol of what can be done when we act in the interest of conservation.
OK, OK, some of you are saying “NO, we mean conserving family values”. OK – so does this mean smaller government? Take any social issue you want and tell me how a smaller government is going to impact that issue in a positive manner.
The idea of being a conservative has been tarnished in the past forty years to mean pro-military, pro-gun rights, anti abortion, anti gay rights, pro death penalty, anti-science, pro creationism, anti-science, anti-war and pro-war at the same time – figure that one out folks.
The point is simple – how does today’s definition of conservative stack up against the most conservative of all Presidents, T.R. Roosevelt?
And speaking of conservative – this post was written with recycled words.