Frank Hagen (Aug. 16) writes, “I am an unapologetic conservative.” Can anyone say what this confession means?
The political sense of “conservative” and “liberal” goes back to 19th-century British politics, where the terms over time largely replaced “Tory” and “Whig” as party labels. There are “conservatives” today who would gladly dispose of all political forms and institutions to return to the founding of this nation.
By definition this is radicalism. There are people who call themselves “liberals” and campaign for more centralized government, the antithesis of historic liberalism. In both camps, ideologues would likely agree they are fiercely opposed to those in the other camp; they are largely to be distinguished from moderates by an adverb.
Not all conservatives share an ideology, no more than do liberals. There are a multitude of factions gathered under both banners, but even the least representative may imagine in the surrounding host an army of supporters. History suggests one should beware of marching off to war along with those who may be your nearest enemy, for these words are will-o-the-wispish.
Someone who says, “I am a Republican” or “I am a Democrat,” meaning they vote the party ticket, at least says something with meaning.