Traditional conservatives (as opposed to the big-government AIPAC-Lockheed Martin-Evangelical neo-conservatives) have defined themselves as, above all else, proponents of small government. Many people do not know the underlying reason why conservatives have a religious-like devotion to cutting the size of government. The perception in the public is that these small-government type conservatives are either:
1) xenophobic rednecks. They are typically white males who belong to a militia, and believe there is a conspiracy by the government to control them. They fear this government control because it would mean being forced to accept the 21st century progressive values of human rights, equality and tolerance: values which have still not spread to the backwards rural areas of America.
2) greedy rich bean counters. These people are trying to loosen the rules that protect the poor from the big rich corporations. They are also typically white, and are trying to protect the elite from the roving bands of mostly dark-skinned poor by enacting tougher laws against crime and cutting social programs that allow the inner city poor to survive. Above all else, they are trying to reduce the taxes the rich must pay so that they can hoard even more money.
I believe this has become the perception of conservatives, because conservatives have not done enough to explain their message and have allowed big-government leftists to succeed in associating the conservative mission with immorality.
For the values of limited government to take hold, it must be seen as the morally superior position. I also believe the morality of limited government needs to be stressed over the economic advantages of limited government. Proponents of small government must challenge the position of proponents of big government social programs as the retainers of the moral high ground.
Those who advocate big government do not have the moral high ground, because they advocate coercion against innocent individuals. Too many people do not understand this. They do not understand that government has nothing. For a government to provide something, it must take it from someone else using coercion. Government is coercion. This is the equation that must be imprinted into the collective mind of the public. The mission of conservatives is not 'cutting the size of government', but 'reducing coercion'.
Jesus or Buddha would never advocate force to acquire resources to help the poor, yet that is exactly what the so-called compassionate leftists advocate. They advocate using government agents to force people to hand over their wealth, in order to provide for the poor. Nothing, absolutely nothing, justifies using coercion against an innocent individual.
This point must be stressed above all else, because leftists do everything they can to justify the coercion that is required to fund government programs, and then turn around and call the right immoral for not wanting government programs that help the poor. Leftists do everything they can to be perceived as the moral ones because that is where they get their political strength, and that is where they must be attacked relentlessly.
From now on, we conservatives do not want to 'cut the size of government', but 'reduce coercion'. Whether it's coercion against a small child, coercion against a rich greedy son of a bitch, it matters not, it is immoral and cannot be justified. Once this is made clear, the big government leftist will be exposed as an advocate of theft against innocent people, a cheater who rather than using his own hard-earned money to help the poor, wants to take the shortcut and take other people's money.
The term conservative itself is also misleading. At one time one would need to be a conservative to be an advocate of reduced coercion, because coercion (government) was minimal, and therefore to be a proponent of reduced coercion you would need to conserve the type of government the nation had. It was the progressives, those who wanted to change the system, that wanted to increase coercion (increase the size of government).
Now, the situation is reversed. We have an established system for coercing innocent individuals, that is widely accepted by a population who has lost its pride, and its belief in human dignity and morality. It is those who want to reduce coercion that want change- that are the progressives, and it is those who want to continue the widespread coercion of innocent individuals who want to conserve the system- it is the leftists who are the conservatives.
Ron Paul has enjoyed success primarily because he has focused on the moral aspect of reducing the size of government. He stresses again and again that government is coercion and therefore immoral. We must all try to do the same. We must never compromise on our principles and give into dehumanizing our fellow man and allowing coercion against him to be justified.
-August 12th addendum-
Upon a re-read of this article, I realized I never proposed a new term to describe the political ideology 'conservatism' as I stated I would in the introduction, so I would like to attempt to do so now.
In the article I mention that I believe in our modern age, traditional conservatives are the real progressives, and the leftists are the real conservatives, but despite this, 'progressive' isn't the term that I would support to describe the political ideology that we now call 'conservatism'.
I thought a lot about what value one who tries to reduce coercion believes in, and I concluded that that value is liberty. Upon thinking on this, I further concluded that the term 'liberal' has been grotesquely misappropriated by the left. The group that advocates greater coercion via government regulations and taxes should not be called the 'liberals'. It is advocates of limited government that are the champions of liberty.
So is 'liberal' the term conservatives should demand they be called? No because I think that the belief in personal liberty does not fully encompass the traditional conservative movement. There is also an element of promoting family values, national solidarity, and personal responsibility that defines the traditional conservative.
I think therefore that a term that could properly describe the traditional conservative is "responsible liberal". The "responsible" part describes the factor of believing in personal responsibility, rather than believing that the state should take care of each individual.
A responsible person takes care of his family and is charitable to his neighbors, not because the government forces him to, but because that is the right thing to do. A responsible liberal believes that government should give people maximum liberty and that people should use that liberty responsibly, meaning not indulging in pre-marital sex, financial carelessness, drug-use, etc just because they can.
I am in no way certain that this term, 'responsible liberal', is the best term out there to describe the political ideology of conservatism, but in the interest of advancing the public discussion, I've put it forth here. Oh and leftists, they should be called socialists, because that is the term that most accurately describes them.