In my previous article, I broke down what it means to be not just a conservative but generally what it means to be an American conservative.
I pointed out key principles in which conservative ideology today stems from. I had pointed out that conservatism and likewise conservatives are actually, in a way, flexible in their beliefs. As a result, not only does conservatism today look differently across the world, it does so here in the U.S. as well. Within the conservative movement here in America, there is the struggle of how differing ideologies can be categorized under one term, conservative. This has caused confusion and some conservatives may even lack the legitimacy of others. However, due to the traditional definition of conservatism, each view or type of conservatism has a strong standing to be considered conservative and some may even identify as a combination of types of conservatism. In a further continuation of my breakdown of conservatism in America today, I will briefly go over the most popular/common types of conservatives today, according to most widely accepted definitions, to point out key similarities and fundamental differences between them.
The first type of conservatives are “cultural conservatives”. They are very often confused with social conservatives at times and can also be equated to the religious right due to many similar beliefs on social issues. This also is the case because Christians don’t mind being viewed as “cultural conservatives” because it implies that America is a Christian country. However, true cultural conservatives focus less on religion and are mostly focused on the preservation of heritage and or culture. They seek to preserve the practices that are purposefully passed down from generation to generation. They use politics primarily to prevent fundamental change to American culture and to maintain the “American way of life.”
In contrast to that, there are social and religious conservatives. These two types, while they differ a bit, are probably the two most closely related. Social conservatives focus mostly on preserving social practices such as the traditional household structure, and marriage as traditionally defined. They are driven by a moral ideology that stems from family values and religion. This group is probably the most recognized group of conservatives in America due to their ties with the Republican Party. Now, Religious conservatives differ mainly in that their main focus is to conserve religious teachings usually through legal means. They generally would not protest making a requirement for the practice of a religious ideal. At the very least, they want religion to predominately influence laws and seek to increase the profile of a religion in public life.
Another largely recognized group of conservatives are Constitutional conservatives. Their main purpose is exactly as one might expect. It is to preserve the principles of the constitution. They defend ideas, attitudes and behavior related to the principle that the authority of the government comes from and is limited by a body of fundamental law. They rarely get involved in social issues but are willing to provide guidance over such issues.
In contrast, there are Libertarian conservatives. They believe in a much more strict interpretation of the constitution. They prioritize strong enforcement of state rights, personal freedoms and are strong critiques of the federal government.
Another type of conservatives are Fiscal conservatives. In addition to being its own group of conservatives, many constitutional and libertarian conservatives also view themselves as fiscal conservatives because they want to reduce government spending and shrink the size of government. By definition, fiscal conservatives push for prudence in government spending and national debt. Along with reducing government spending, they also want to deregulate the economy and lower taxes. They are also the group of conservatives who tend to worry the least about social issues.
The last two types of conservatives are Neo and Paleoconservatives.
Neoconservatives are a part, in the scope of conservative history, a new group in the conservative movement that primarily promote the ideas of free trade, free market economics and rely on diplomatic foreign policy. They also seek alternatives to public welfare services. In many ways, they are still similar to traditional conservatives. However, they do not provide guidance on social issues. They are mostly most concerned with international affairs.
Now, Paleoconservatives promote federalism, a form of government in which the power divided between two levels of government are equal in status. They are also the most concerned with preserving the ways of the past, hint their name. And, like many other conservatives, they tend to be family oriented and have ties to religion. They are the biggest voice against mass immigration and also call for complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from all foreign countries. They also can be very critical of other types of conservatives.
These are the eight types of conservatives in America. Or as I said in the beginning, they are the most popular and common. I find that it is important to identify these different types, these different groups of people who are either labeled as conservative or they themselves identify as conservative. It is important to do so because there are many conservatives who do not especially, and disproportionately, young conservatives and the countries. In fact, people and youth in general are not fully aware of the different types of conservatives and, due to that, conservatives as a whole are very often misunderstood.
For some conservatives, they may only identify as one type that I have or have not mentioned. Most do identify as several types though not too many identify completely with more than three.
For conservatives it is important that we are aware of these types so that we one; have a better understanding of and can better analyze the actions of those that we vote for; two, we can better understand each other and more effectively work out our differences within the conservative movement; and three, we can make these different types known to our youth to better their understanding of the complexity of conservatism and to prevent the idea that being conservative means one thing and one thing early.
It is also important to define these for the same reasons but for those who are not conservatives so that they themselves can have a better understanding of what it means to be a conservative. So there can be more productive conversations with conservatives. For those who are not conservative, they can stop putting conservatives all in one box. And, for those who think all conservatives are unreasonable, they may just realize that is not the case.
Written by Tyler Sanders