What is a conservative? It’s a question that bears asking, simply because there’s no clear-cut definition anymore. Not that there ever are clear-cut definitions in the realm of politics, but when it starts to get confusing, it’s time to start reflecting.
I’ve never been one to put a label on my own political beliefs, but as I usually vote for the Conservative Party and find myself at odds with liberal points of view more often than not, I find the gravitation toward the “c-word” natural. I consider myself a political conservative, but only if I round up.
So when I heard that there was a new “centre-right” conservative newspaper at McGill in the same vein as the upcoming Sun News channel, I was pretty excited. The overt liberal bias of academia had become suffocating, and I anticipated a real breath of fresh air in the Prince Arthur Herald. A little bit of provocation could really be healthy for intelligent debate.
I started reading it and got a chuckle out of a few jabs at Michael Ignatieff, read an interesting piece about grading at McGill, and an article boosting Alberta’s education system. So far so good… until the wheels started spinning and the Prince Arthur Horror-Machine started spitting out opinion pieces with baseless and downright ignorant attacks on left-wingers and anyone who would dare question Israel. Hey, I didn’t know being a conservative meant agreeing with Israeli settlement policies – at risk of being branded a supporter of “nihilistic anti-semitic [sic] death cults.” Adding to my confusion was the hit job on QPIRG advocates and the nasty flame wars the articles provoked. I opted out last semester, but this semester I just might stay opted in, because the anti-QPIRG campaign has rubbed me the wrong way. Being provocative is one thing – being thuggish is another.
What is a conservative then? An ex-girlfriend once told me, when I was a young idealistic liberal and she a reserved conservative, that “conservatives have guts.” I don’t think she meant the kind of guts needed to slam negative campaigning and deeply partisan messages down peoples’ throats. Nor the kind of guts needed to promote ethnocentrism and Zionist propaganda in a paper that claims to be “Canada’s premier student news source.”
No, I think the kind of guts she was talking about are the guts that made me shift my views. The kind that are needed to be a stalwart defender of equality, freedom, and opportunity. The kind that are needed to stick to principles of fairness, justice, responsibility, and prudence. The kind that are needed to be honest, pragmatic, and bold. Conservative values are old and universal. They’re tried, tested, and true. That’s what a conservative is and that’s the kind of media I support.
Haaris Khan is a U2 IDS and Software Engineering student. He is also a representative to the International Development Studies Students’ Association, but the views expressed here are his own. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.