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A return to traditional conservatism

BY GUEST OPINION | SEPTEMBER 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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The United States is at both an economic and cultural crossroads.

The economy is still suffering from the "Great Recession" with slow economic growth and 9.1 percent unemployment. The credit rating of the nation has recently been lowered because of the failure of policymakers to appropriately address the spending problem. Our national debt is more than $14 trillion, and the federal government has been running trillion-dollar deficits, while entitlement programs threaten to consume the entire budget unless reformed.

The traditional values and Christian heritage of the nation is also under attack by secular worldviews. Conservatives are fighting a war on a thousand fronts, from restoring the economy and Constitutional government to preserving our heritage from a growing secular and relativistic culture. Conservatives who are looking for both a policy and philosophical blueprint to restore the republic would be well served to read Bringing America Home: How America Lost Her Way and How We Can Find Our Way Back, by Tom Pauken, and The Next Conservatism, by Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind — both of which provide a call for a return to traditional conservatism that is based upon constitutionally limited government and the defense of our American and Christian heritage.

Pauken, who currently serves as chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, is a veteran of the conservative movement. Pauken was a supporter of Sen. Barry Goldwater, who ran for president on the Republican ticket in 1964, and he served in both President Richard Nixon's and President Ronald Reagan's administrations. As a conservative, he was influenced by Goldwater's book The Conscience of a Conservative as well as William F. Buckley's Up From Liberalism and James Burnham's Suicide of the West, among other great works of the American conservative movement. Pauken has been very concerned about the direction of both the conservative movement and the Republican Party. "But what passes for conservatism in the post-Reagan era of Republican politics is barely recognizable to many of us who were grass-roots activists in the early days of the conservative movement — especially after eight years of a Republican administration headed by George W. Bush, who claimed to be a conservative."

Although President Bush did make some good conservative decisions, such as judicial appointments, tax cuts, and defending crucial social issues, his administration followed the path of New Deal-style government expansion with such programs as Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind, which in the process led to our spending problems today. In addition, Bush followed the neoconservative approach to foreign policy with his interventionism and nation-building efforts, which is a foreign policy more in line with progressives rather than conservatives.

Pauken is arguing for a return to traditional conservatism that is rooted in the limited government philosophy of Goldwater and Reagan, which also protects our traditional values and Christian heritage. "The hardest part in formulating an overall strategy to get our country back on the right track is figuring out how to restore our traditional beliefs … Our country was not founded on the egalitarian, antireligious principles of the French Revolution," wrote Pauken. "Christian values are at the center of our national character; and the attack on them has taken a heavy toll on the traditional family," argued Pauken. This is clearly seen in the debates over economic policy, the definition of marriage, and abortion, among other cultural issues. Pauken also illustrated the fundamental point when he wrote that "unfortunately, our society has been under an increasingly lethal assault by a coalition of cultural ideologues who have not learned the lessons that history offers about what has happened when men and societies have 'forgotten God.' "

John Hendrickson is a research analyst with Public Interest Institute.


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