Why we should think like conservatives

October 11, 2016 — by Kevin Chow

At times, The Saratoga Falcon can be unboundedly liberal in its editorial views (see: other articles on this page). In fact, so are many academic institutions, especially universities (see: Harvard criminal law professor writes about student complaints about teaching rape law).

If anything, this makes clear the strange distortion of our current understanding of conservatism and liberalism. Judging from the election, to be conservative is to oppose immigration and dislike minorities; to be liberal is to want to ban guns and raise taxes, among other things.

But conservatism, like liberalism, is a valid line of thought with valid platforms. It may have a support base perhaps not familiar to us and with different values, but that doesn’t detract from its value. Conservatives are people too, people who grew up in different circumstances with different values, but often we and the media see them as homophobic fanatics. This needs to change.

What is important to understand is that parties change and the idea of what makes a conservative and what makes a liberal is ever-shifting. What also needs to be recognized is the shifting tide against conservatives (those Trump-loving hooligans!).

There has always been the danger of a dominating ideology. Imagine the Bolsheviks overthrowing the Mensheviks. Especially with a government founded on checks and balances, conservatism and liberalism need a balance.

What’s even scarier is that the current trend against conservatism is led by academic institutions and students, the people who educate and create the next generation.

The problem is that conservatism had gotten for itself a bad name. Trump has both alienated and stereotyped conservatives. And many argue that the current state of the Republican party has been years in the making, Trump is only a byproduct, and that the right wing has been seized by reactionaries that are dragging the party by its ear.

Conservatism has been distorted, but it used to be an ideology that permitted libertarianism, economic conservatism and compromise with Democrats. It’s important to know that conservatism is the other side to our society. There’s a reason that so many people believe in its ideals and support its (albeit rogue) candidate.

The conservative party platform has had a couple of worthy, persistent stances, including support of businesses, Second Amendment rights within reason, anti-marijuana and anti-illegal immigration. Despite the forms that these opinions take in our distorted media, these are valuable viewpoints. Conservatives aren’t all mountain men white supremacists interested in keeping America in the dark ages — they are just people who have grown up in different circumstances.

We in the Silicon Valley, and even more so in Saratoga, value many things because of the context in which we live. We believe in the growth of technology, scientific inquiry, giving to those that are less fortunate, giving quarter to nationalities less fortunate, and these are all honorable goals.

But we have to keep in mind that most of America does not live like us. They may live paycheck to paycheck and fear taxes. They may live in a place in constant competition with low-wage working illegal immigrants. They may have lost someone to an extremist terrorist. They may have grown up insular and uncompromising, but these are Americans like us, and America wasn’t founded on highborns thinking the best for the plebeians.

And put aside the people who grew up differently than us; now how many of the rest of us all get our information from the same source? As argued by George Saunders for The New Yorker, with so many different media outlets, with so many different biases and agendas, can you blame anyone for having a view so different from yours that he is called conservative and you are called liberal? In the end, we are all Americans, and for the most part, we want what is best for America and its children.

Even if you don’t believe in the merits of conservative thought, conservatism is important not necessarily because of its stances, but because it represents so much of our nation and a way that we can break out of our own ideological habits.

So it’s worth spreading a new understanding of conservatism that takes into account the changing status quo. Some conservatives support gender and minority equality, new gun control laws, reasonable immigration control. It’s up to us, the students and community of Saratoga High, to accept a renovated conservatism and learn to stop demonizing it.

Even we at The Saratoga Falcon — we’ll try, too.