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Editorial: Who are you calling conservative?

Published in TCT on June 24, 2010

By Peter A. Steele

TCT Editor

We still cringe when someone calls us “conservative.” That must get a laugh from many of our readers, but it’s true.

Your editor grew up in the most outlandishly liberal town on the Eastern Seaboard, Provincetown, a place in which the political spectrum stretches only from far-left extremism to moderate Democrat. Anything to the slightest right of that was considered evil and ugly and just plain wrong. When people spoke of anyone who was conservative, they practically spat the word and looked like someone just fed them rotten fish.

No one ever explained why being “conservative” was so wrong—it just was.

So our natural reaction is to flinch when someone labels us “conservative,” especially when we are more liberal than you think on the social “wedge issues.” We don’t write about gay marriage, religion, abortion or stem cell research. If you think our editorials are controversial now, writing about those incendiary issues would most likely cause your copy of TCT to burst into flames as you were reading it.

We avoid those topics because we see them as private issues that you must decide based upon on your own personal, deeply held beliefs, morals and values. We would never try to dictate what those beliefs should be. (Unlike Democrats, who have been trying for decades to force you to believe in their expensive and failed agenda to create “social justice.” But that’s for another day.)

Yes, indeed, we are fiscally conservative. We believe very strongly that government must be a competent and vigilant steward of our money, which we work extremely hard to earn. To watch it get sucked into a black hole of government ineffectiveness and politically correct, but impotent, agendas simply sends us into a frenzy.

We can’t stand watching our government spend our hard-earned money on bloated bureaucratic payrolls, redundant programs, inefficient delivery of services, ineffective educational systems and a social welfare network that is blatantly unfair to the taxpayers. You know us: we screech about these things on a regular basis.

Does that make us a true conservative or are we just fiscally conservative and socially moderate? We really don’t know.

Many readers were surprised over the years to find that we were not enrolled as a Republican. We started our political life in 1983 as a Democrat, like most guys from Massachusetts. But we voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984 while casting our ballot in our first Presidential election.

Even back then, as a college kid, we were very strong on personal responsibility, matters of national security and important issues such as immigration, but still pretty moderate, if not liberal, on the social issues. We remember Carter and the Iran Hostage Crisis from high school, and we remember feeling pretty disgusted about it. We’d take Ronny over Mondale any day!

We were always very proud of our country’s heritage and its history, and we strongly disagreed with the blame-America professors we encountered at Colby College, who enjoyed preying on the over-privileged white kids sitting in their classrooms, subjecting them to their insurgent ideals.

And, like many former Democrats, as soon as we started making a paycheck and understanding the finances of our family’s small business, we quickly determined that the less government intrusion into your life and your pocketbook, the better. We became an un-enrolled voter during the Clinton years, turned off by his personal shenanigans and his major political gaffes, like sending his wife to tackle health care and forcing the issue of gays in the military (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Despite giving Clinton credit for enacting welfare reform, incidents like Black Hawk Down in Somalia, Troopergate, Whitewater and his shady use of presidential pardons, as well as his cozy relationship with China, forced us back to the “conservative” side of politics. We were also dismayed at the Clintons’ agenda to provide “affordable housing” to the masses, a movement that has erupted into a major-league racket today.

We recall watching waiters and waitresses who worked during the summers, then went on unemployment in the winters, get brand-new apartments in stylish “affordable housing” units, while our full-time paycheck wasn’t enough for us to buy a small condo.

We then enrolled as Republican to vote for George Bush in his second term, and once again un-enrolled after that bitter disappointment.

We only enrolled as a Republican this spring so we could vote for Paul LePage in the primary. We are certain that we disagree with LePage on many of the social and religious issues. Diehard conservatives would probably consider us a RINO (Republican in Name Only). But we really don’t care about that: social issues are not the most pressing items on the agenda for Maine today.

The most important issues facing Maine today include reducing the size of government, making it more efficient and more effective, reforming the expensive social welfare system, streamlining the education budget, providing a more business-friendly, lower-tax climate, decreasing the state’s massive debt load, repairing its infrastructure and spurring the private sector.

Beyond that, we don’t care what anyone thinks about the wedge issues—unless they are trying to use our tax money to force some of these issues on us. Then we will protest loudly.

So, like most Americans, we are a mix of liberal, conservative, moderate and independent, no matter how we are enrolled as voters. We enrolled as a Republican this year because we believe Maine is heading for a major sea change. And, like the rest of the country, the state is sharply divided between “conservative” and liberal ideals.

Maine has swung so far to the left, it will take a big push to the right to get back on track. There is no room for middle ground here. It is indeed an “us versus them” situation. We may not consider ourselves a staunch conservative, but we certainly are not part of “them,” the liberal Democrats who have made such a mess of the state.

So we ask you to join “us,” even if we may part ways on the wedge issues, to take back the state in November. We need common-sense solutions to Maine’s financial predicament, not rallying cries for social justice or bills to create more jobs for government employees.

We don’t care what party you are enrolled in, and we don’t care if you are un-enrolled or independent or green or libertarian or whatever. For the sake of our future, come join the “conservative” side—even if it makes you flinch.

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