If you look for what this word means in any English dictionary, you may be surprised (especially if you are from America) that at a personal level, it refers to an aversion to change or innovate, but upholds any series of traditional values, a safe bet, someone who would not upset any applecart, a moderator, a good egg, a cautious or discreet person.
Likewise, a “conservative estimate” would be one marked with moderation or caution, likely to be lower than what the real amount or number is, and a “conservative suit” would be marked by relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners. Someone, for instance, who does not wear fashionable, modern clothes or hairstyles.
So far, so good.
But when it comes to politics in the U.K., the original meaning of a “Conservative” was a person favouring free enterprise, private ownership, and socially traditional ideas. Which sounds grand.
But sadly, the Conservative party in the U.K. today means something quite different. Today, if you are a Conservative, you acknowledge that lying and cheating is a tangible part of the ruling elite. It is ok to elect a Trumpian monster as your prime minister, as long as it will get your party re-elected at the next election. That’s all that matters.
Today’s Conservative party in the UK can only sneer or smirk. They know no other emotion. They simply cannot believe that most of us Brits are remarkably resilient; we are kind, we are mostly law-abiding, and often make extreme personal sacrifices for others less endowed. They do not understand us at all. Or maybe they do, and just take advantage of us while the going is good.
They have changed the meaning of “Conservative” as us Brits understand the word, and I don’t think we will ever forgive them.
Back in the USSR: defining the meaning of ‘conservative’
It’s funny but the word ‘conservative’ in late Soviet Union meant something very different compared to the Western term.
In the classic Western way, the term ‘conservative’ stands for being a Winston Churchill. Or a Ronald Reagan. I like both characters as well as their values: political and economic freedom, less role of the state, more individuality, etc. Probably this is because I was born in the USSR where exactly the opposite has been cultivated: the Levithan state oppressing any cry for freedom, putting collectivism before one’s personal goals or ambitions, and limiting or completely restricting any individual’s effort to stand out.
From the history books we know that this ideology just went totally bankrupt in the late 80s – early 90s, putting an end to communism as an alternative to freedom and capitalism. Now, those noisy Bernie Sanders-like left-wing people in the West, who associate themselves with things like BLM, ‘defund the police’ or the ‘cancel’ culture, just seem like they haven’t learnt the history lessons.
Being so naive, to put it in a soft way, comes from their own experience; you’ll never understand what such ideology means, in real life, until you live in a totalitarian state. In a liberal society it is easy to be such a ‘human/minorities’ rights fighter’. In fact, such ideology leads only to personal freedoms destruction, installing a truly totalitarian doctrine: how to behave, what to say, what not to say, what to like, what to dislike; turning their contradictory, and let’s be honest, sometimes extremist, views into mainstream for the ‘silent majority’.
Getting back to the topic: my point is that in the late USSR those hardliners, who have been opposing liberal reforms, were called ‘conservatives’; effectively making this definition 100 percent opposite to its original Western meaning.
Those Soviet ‘conservatives’ would’ve been very far-left in Western Europe or the United States.
On the other hand, some Soviet ‘Ronald Reagan’ would’ve been known as a ‘radical’, if not an ‘extremist’, back then in the USSR.
“Conservative” – Definition?
I feel a little weird every time Trump calls another Republican RINO (Republican In Name Only). When I was a child, being conservative was something completely different than it is today. To my way of thinking, the Republican party itself is now RINO.
Let me explain: years ago being conservative came with certain moral attributes. And the party wore these traits like a badge of honor. Family values being first among them. Inside the party we had these little sub-groups like the Moral Majority. The Republican Party defined what it meant to be conservative in a way that transcended any one person; even Ronald.
President Reagan had views that differed from mine but I respected the man. He had a moral compass that would have made him an outcast in todays party. This card carrying union man led a Republican Party that was far removed from todays.
I cringe when I hear Republicans today talk about Lincoln & Reagan. They take both men out of context and pick and choose quotes to make the leaders sound like the current party. In fact, Lincoln was a flaming liberal and today, Reagan has far more in common with modern Democrats than Republicans.
Today’s opportunistic RINO party cares little for the values of old. Gone is any pretense of a moral code that cannot be violated. Before Trump said “The FBI is rotten to the core”, he proclaimed “I’m your law and order President”. Clearly both these statements cannot be true and I suspect the change of heart has something to do with the sheer volume of investigations currently in a final phase.
The Republican Party’s current official platform is basically: “whatever Trump says is our position.” No that’s not an exaggeration, that’s the platform they adopted at the last convention. No policy statement at all, on any subject. Nothing. That’s the exact same platform they have put forward for the upcoming mid-terms: nothing.
The loss of the conservative party in America has exposed the weakness of only having two major parties: if one party loses its way, the entire Republic is suddenly rudderless. The US ceded its leadership role in the world during the Trump years. The damage has been lasting and America is now, rightly, seen as an unreliable partner. Binding, legal treaties that had been signed and honored by both parties were simply cast aside. Our word was no longer worth anything.
So, in America, the definition of conservative is whatever Donald Trump says it is… today.