There wasn’t any. The title (my mistake) implies conservatism and liberalism were opposing factions in the culture and politics of early America. Nothing could be further from the truth. There was no conservatism or liberalism. At least it looks that way. Noah Webster’s First Edition published in 1828, neglected to include either word: conservatism or liberalism. Makes one wonder. What was all the fuss about during the first congress: the arguments, the great compromises; if there were no conservatives and liberals to do the fighting. Nonetheless it’s reported the fledgling legislators were sufficiently nonplussed, so much so they resorted to prayer.
Here is the Noah Webster’s Dictionary, First Edition definition of conservative in 1828:
CONSERVATIVE, adjective Preservative; having power to preserve in a safe or entire state, or from loss, waste or injury.
That’s it. Done. If there was a conservative he resembled a machine with the power to dry food, such as the kitchen appliance Ron Paul advertises. No richness, no depth, no mystery, nothing laudable. No grand or inspirational message. No history. Like Spam served off an Iron Chef’s grill, a conservative would spend the rest of his life fretting, “finding himself.” Basically, according to Noah Webster, today's conservative lacks pedigree.
So it’s a safe bet when a conservative in 1828, or likely in 1776, was accused of being a conservative, he might as well have been called a covfefe. He would not have known who or what he was accused of being. The term covfefe is only two days old, is already more interesting, more packed with meaning than the definition of conservative ever was or likely will be. Born of Trump, a covfefe has pedigree, a Yuge beautiful pedigree.
Now. Webster’s definition of liberal in 1828 is an entirely different story. Accused of being a liberal in that day, the lucky dog would have had a wealth of information to go on, practically an encyclopedia of shades of fine meaning, potent with grandeur and nuance:
LIB'ERAL, adjective [Latin liberalis, from liber, free. See Libe.]
Anyone reading that lengthy definition will find himself or herself in it, somewhere. Just take a moment, allow the wealth of a liberal to soak in awhile: [Latin liberalis, from liber, free. See Libe.] Liberal, perhaps descended from a Latin lover. Apart from definition number 6: having something to do with discharges, secretions, and excretions (every definition from a fine family has its one black sheep) a liberal is just about everything an American could ever want to be, especially when compared to the other guy over there all about preserving himself.
Ever wonder why conservatives never had a chance? Why they imagined they were really accomplishing something the fifty times they circled their wagon to repeal healthcare? Would someone named Dufus or Goober have had a chance either? Who would take the argument, promise, or threat from a Mr. Dufus or Mr. Goober seriously? Part of the problem is the conservative moniker. It was not earned, the hard way. It was gifted, perhaps re-gifted to its unfortunate recipients by people who had great disdain for private property rights and national sovereignty, by people that wanted the word liberal applied to themselves so they could mangle it to bring true their every Utopian dream.
The term liberal exudes liberty, along with other themes, good and bad, but mostly great: munificent, bountiful, generous, not selfish, embracing, free, open, candid, large, not strict, not low in birth…. Who doesn’t want to go to that party! How does today’s liberal go about championing his own definition of being? Well, he can just be his self. No contortions, nor self-loathing needed.
With so little to go on, regarding what it really means to be a conservative, it’s not surprising Red State a few short days ago published a piece by Joe Cunningham: Is Conservatism’s New Philosophy Just Straight Up Chaos? Cunningham’s take: Conservatives have foolishly latched onto a disruptor who favors chaos over conservative principles and ideals. He characterized President Trump and his administration as near lunatic, unstable, inconsistent, insane, bipolar, and thin-skinned. It’s Trump’s manhood at stake and Trump is doing what he must to keep himself virile.
Except, Cunningham’s description of Trump’s faults and motivations perfectly describe conservative outcomes in government, our economy, and our culture, to a tee. Which is why when an adult showed up many conservatives became unhinged, resorted to projecting upon him their own faults and reasons why everything they attempted resulted in chaos: disruptions without purpose or resultant form or reason.
For chaos can result both from disruption and from carefully laid plans that go awry. Conservatives can produce chaos by careful planning as easily as big government central planners can and have. Venezuela was not the product of a disruptor, but was the product of the careful planning of individuals much like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Chuck Schumer. More people are under their umbrella than just those five individuals, including most every member of the House and Senate ready to both repeal and replace Obamacare.
Simply put, repeal of Obamacare ends the chaos. Repeal and replace maintains the chaos.
Not all disruptors are equal. Some disruptors, those of Trump's caliber, can achieve far more than conservatives ever will, who insist upon reaching across the aisle, who evidence they are more worried about 2018, 2020, and 2022, who are more worried about being a “true” conservative than about being the lovely, wholesome liberal today’s liberal can never hope to be.
Selah – Pause and think about that one.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
About The Pundit
This retired window washer now provides instruction on the benefits and perils of time travel through focusing an allegorical lens on the present.