Chuck Todd asks Senator Ben Sasse: What is a conservative? (And are American “conservatives” really conservative?)


I have become a big fan of Senator Sasse. His definition of “conservative” is I think right on the money. Though I would say that the term “conservative” doesn’t really feel right to me these days. I would argue that what is today called conservative, very limited government, rule of law, generally an affirmation of The Enlightenment in many respects, is actually quite forward thinking and not retrograde as the term “conservative” implies. I don’t think most “conservatives” want to conserve the massive and intrusive state which this country has been saddled with since the Wilson administration.

Wilson, FDR, the big government guys are essentially counter revolutionaries. They represent a reversion to a highly centralized Europeanesque model with a president king figurehead bestowing favors upon underlings. This worldview is counter to the revolutionary document which is the US Constitution which reaffirmed the natural rights of everyday citizens and sought to keep as much power as possible in the hands of individual citizens.

So I don’t see people like Senator Sasse, Senator Paul, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, etc. as “conservatives” really. They appear to be constitutional restorationists which is a forward looking disposition relative to the general trajectory of human history and the big government despotism which has defined politics for millennia.