COLUMN: By today’s standard, was Ulysses S. Grant a tree hugger?

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By Galen Clark, guest columnist

In his column, Mr. White states his goal is to expound upon conservatism.

Instead he switches to asking “Why” a person – and specifically a Christian – would support the Democratic Party that Mr. White portrays as an evil, socialist, power-hungry group of self-seeking individuals.
As a Republican I will leave defending the Democratic Party to someone registered in that party. I think the better question is, “Why do some people choose not to be a conservative?”
Let’s start with a standard definition of conservatism from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. Conservatism is defined as “a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically: such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage).”
Conversely, liberalism is defined as “a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically: such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class).”
Conservatism includes subcategories such as fiscal conservatism, environmental conservatism, religious conservatism, and social conservatism.
I find the study “Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognitions” (Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski and Sulloway, Psychological Bulletin, 2003, Vol. 129, No. 3, 339-375) sheds some interesting insight into the conservative mindset.
This study looks at decades of research about the conservative psychological profile to find that the first core issue of conservatism is a resistance to change which elevates into a fear of change, while those with liberal tendencies accept change.
Another core issue shows that conservatives accept class inequality and a social pecking order, while liberals favor greater social equality and opportunity.
Basically, one who identifies as being conservative is resistant to change wanting instead to remember the good old days when times were quieter and slower and we did not have to think about the tough issues of today.
This person would also agree with the opinions of those in higher power in the social pecking order.
So why would someone (even a Christian) choose not to be seen as a conservative.
It may be that some see conservatism as embracing good core values like taking care of the sick, feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless (Matthew, 25: 34-45), but such values now come to be labeled liberal values rather than conservative.
Some may believe that these actions are hard to implement by an individual or small group, but are more successfully achieved on a national level with each individual providing a relatively small amount of funding.
Some may see a pooling of resources to help others as not being socialism, but a way of promoting a common good (Acts, 2: 43-47).
Some may feel that educating our society strengthens our nation and is an investment in our national future. Conservatism preaches a strong national defense funded by all members of society as being in our best interest.
Some may see that philosophy as also applying to safeguarding our food and water supplies, maintaining infrastructure, providing education, and providing services that help those in need. Some may feel the sum of the whole is greater than those of the parts in funding and bringing about such accomplishments.
Some also may feel that the interests of people outweigh those of some corporate and business interests.
Corporations are entities created by law and have no morality except the morals of the people running them, or the laws that regulate them.
Some may feel that these entities need help when it helps other people or keeps people employed.
Some may feel these entities need to contribute their fair share to fund national defense and the national good.
Some may feel that some of these entities are run by those lacking morality or sense of right and wrong, so need national supervision.
 Abraham Lincoln is an icon of the Republican Party and is credited with the emancipation of African American slaves in the United States. This emancipation was seen as massive governmental regulation and interference in the 1860s leading to civil war.
By today’s standards would we categorize Lincoln as a conservative or a liberal? He certainly changed the corporate (plantation) status quo, redefined labor structure and costs, while embracing the goal of equality for all people.
Let’s touch on the hot button of the environment. Yellowstone National Park was our first national park under a law signed by Republican President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. Five more national parks were added under signature of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt.
Today’s conservative political leadership has a “conservative” agenda wanting to open our national parks for oil drilling, logging or other business ventures.
The group Republicans for Environmental Protection would argue that conservatism means conservation – protecting the beauty of our country and progressing slowly as to not cause harm to our source of life. Is the push to “drill-baby-drill” really a conservative philosophy, or is it a corporate interest promoted by businessmen higher in the social pecking order and promising a return to the good old days as a way to influence those with a conservative mind set?
Please continue to ask “Why” and open your ears to all the answers. I have tried to provide a few suggestions for you.

We all need to ask why and check out the facts in our search for that answer.
Form your own opinion rather than blindly adopting the thoughts of those you perceive are higher in the pecking order while checking out their motives and reasoning so that you can base your opinions on facts and good reasoning.
Thank you for asking “Why.”

The views expressed in this column are those of the writer. Galen Clark lives in Prospect.