I would like to gently—okay, forcefully—make a point today about a mischaracterization being promulgated in the media. It’s also prevalent in academia. It has to do with how the political spectrum is explained.
We all know, since the Charlottesville episode, that the so-called Alt-Right has come under greater scrutiny. This is a group that, although it claims not to be Neo-Nazi or part of the KKK, nevertheless finds ideological companions in those detestable movements. In reality, the Alt-Right is just as much an extremist, fringe group as those, and let’s not forget one of their counterparts on the Left.
What I object to is the term itself, somehow aligning the Alt-Right with genuine conservatism. This is an error that shows up constantly, and it didn’t begin with this Alt-Right fiasco. The typical way the political spectrum is displayed by liberals is something like this:
Notice in this diagram how conservatism is positioned on the spectrum as a step toward the Nazis and other political parties considered by liberals to be “right-wing” fanatics. And what do we find in the center of this line as the “perfect” place to be? Why, liberal Democrats, of course, who apparently have no real connection to socialism/communism.
How one draws a line like this is dependent on the assumptions one starts with.
From my own assumptions, I would redraw the line this way:
Why do I consider this more accurate? First, the spectrum is based on how much control government has over the lives of its citizens, which I believe is a better way of approaching an explanation of beliefs.
As you can see, on the extreme Left of the spectrum one finds not only socialism/communism, where they truly belong as totalitarian systems, but also the Nazis. Historical fact bears this out. We’re so used to using Nazi as a shortcut for the full name that some may not be aware that it was the National Socialist German Workers Party.
Why, then, some may ask, did they oust the communists in Germany if they were so close in beliefs? That’s easily explained. First, Hitler saw the communists as competitors politically; they had to be excised so he could achieve complete authority. Second, communist ranks were filled with Jews, and Hitler’s socialist movement was centered on racial purity—no Jews allowed.
What liberals love to do is associate conservatism with the desire to control other people’s lives through government. Nothing could be further from the truth, at least in American conservatism.
I’ve been a political conservative all my adult life. I teach a course on the development of modern American conservatism and have examined all aspects of it. Even though there are different types of American conservatives, there are threads of belief that all hold in common:
- Limited government control over the lives of citizens—personal liberty to be safeguarded by government.
- Deep respect for the rule of law—not only are everyday citizens held to the law (legislated by their own chosen representatives) but government officials are as well, thereby guaranteeing that government doesn’t trample on anyone.
- Individual rights that come from God, not government—in America, that’s why we have a Bill of Rights in the Constitution.
- Freedom of political speech, so that no one can be prosecuted for disagreeing with the government’s policies.
- Religious liberty, because it’s not the government’s job to tell us what to believe; we all must answer to God directly for that.
- Free market capitalism based on principles of right conduct toward others, which leads to economic prosperity.
- Abhorrence of all forms of totalitarian government because such governments violate everything I’ve detailed above.
Genuine American conservatives have nothing in common with the Alt-Right digression from reality. To lump that group in with conservatism is a gross deception gleefully promoted by those on the Left. It serves their purpose nicely: undermine the credibility of conservatism by linking it to racism.
That’s dishonest. It’s a distortion of what conservatives actually believe. It needs to be called out for its dishonesty.
The only real remedy for extremism in all forms is a society based on Biblical principles and an attachment to constitutional concepts that flow from that Biblical basis.
Don’t be misled by those who have an ideological ax to grind. True conservatism in America is the bedrock of liberty.