Former U.S. Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen 1959-69, explained it perfectly what it means to be a Conservative and what conservatism is. Or as perfectly as it can be explained in a three-minute video. When he said a Conservative is someone who believes in conserving freedom and our values. At least in a political sense and of course its different in a religious context and of course there’s neoconservatism. Conservatism, is about fiscal responsibility. Not spending more than you take in and not spending money on things that you shouldn’t be funding.
And when it comes to politics, the government not spending money on things that could be spent and run better by others. Conserving constitutional rights and individual freedom and individualism. Without Minority Leader Dirksen, the 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights Acts as well as the 1968 Fair Housing Law ,doesn’t become law. Because he convinced several Republican Senators to vote for those laws and not to block them. But voting for cloture which is a Senate term and how the Senate cuts off debate and votes on legislation. Minority Leader Dirksen, didn’t believe in civil and constitutional rights for some, but for all. Actually more Congressional Republicans voted for the civil rights laws than Congressional Democrats.
Minority Leader Dirksen was a big part of the passage of the civil rights laws on the 1960s. Because he was a Republican that would work with Senate Leader Mike Mansfield 1961-77 and President Lyndon Johnson 1963-69. They had to work with the Senate Minority Leader on civil rights issues, because of the Southern Caucus, which was a Far-Right voting block in Congress. That would block and vote against civil rights legislation. Those Democrats would probably be Neoconservative, or Religious Conservative Republicans today like Senator Jim DeMint and others.
Because even Minority Leader Dirksen was the leader of a small minority in the Senate in the 1960s. Because of the Southern Caucus he had leverage to use against the Senate Democratic Leadership and the Johnson Administration. Conservatism, on foreign policy is about yes a strong defense that can not only protect our country, but vulnerable allies who can’t defend themselves against large aggressors. But only using our military to protect our national interest not force democracy around the world. Which is what Neoconservatives believe in, or abusing constitutional rights to protect the country. But protecting those rights to keep the country safe.
There are still some Classical Conservatives in the Republican Party today. Senator Rand Paul, Senator John McCain, Representative Jeff Flake and a few others. But in a lot of ways Everett Dirksen represents what the Republican Party used to be before religious conservatism and neoconservatism came onto the scene in the Republican Party in the late 1970s. But before that the Republican Party was almost purely a classical conservative Party, with a progressive Northern wing. That until Barry Goldwater and Ron Reagan came onto the scene wasn’t able to convince enough voters to put them in power. But when those people and others came in, they’ve been a pretty powerful party ever since.