This word which has become a pejorative to many Americans, is a self-descriptor many others embrace. On one hand, the word refers to old-fashioned, out-dated convictions and communities resistant to change. On the other, the word refers to defenders of truth and tradition against those who would subvert them.
One humorous dictionary defined conservative in this way: “A statesman who is enamoured of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.”
What exactly that “tradition” to be defended (or subverted) is widely differs - even among conservatives. While fiscal conservatives have faith in the "free market" and prefers leaner, more efficient government, social conservatives typically rely on "traditional values" as a guiding force in private and public decisions.
Rather than the term “conservative” or “liberal” reflecting a set of core characteristics, others have argued that "every human being has a conservative impulse and a liberal impulse - on one hand, an impulse to hold on, preserve and conserve that which they find good - and on the other hand, an impulse to question and move past things they find insufficient in some way." Rather than classifying folks into binary labels, then, the question becomes understanding what exactly people want to hold onto - and what they want to jettison.
For instance, whereas those on the (secular) left continue to raise deep and ongoing concerns about Judeo-Christian norms and practices in society, those on the (religious) right remain staunchly committed to protecting and preserving the same.
Those in conservative communities currently have growing fear at being relegated to the fringe of society by those who would portray them as irrelevant.
QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:
-What does the word conservative mean to you? How about to other people you know?