Almost a year has passed since the first Conservative Commentary ran in the Pilot. One has appeared in this space virtually every week since then, and even two have run at a time on some occasions. These commentaries are the product of volunteer contributions, mostly by locals, with a few contributions from state leaders such as John Andrews, Mark Hillman and Bob Beauprez. Writing these commentaries and having the courage to put one's name on them is not a particularly easy thing. I take my hat off to all who have contributed for a job well done.
Our purpose in this effort has been to stimulate thought and discussion, and we have been successful in this. I hope that we have caused some to stop and reflect, rather that just repeating the party line. I hope that we have caused some to realize that the principles on which this nation was founded are as relevant today as they were in 1776. If we have been successful in this with just one person, the effort has been worth it.
That being said, we do receive a good bit of feedback that is only partisan and is not at all thoughtful. We are not going to stop working on these folks. Engaging in political discussion should not be like rooting for your favorite sports team, where blind loyalty is the order of the day.
In this regard, there are a few misconceptions that seem to crop up over and over that I would like to take on directly.
1. "Conservative" and "Republican" are not synonymous. You do not have to look far to see Republicans that are not particularly conservative. Examples include your state representative and senator, and, in many regards, George W. Bush and John McCain. In these commentaries, we have criticized, sometimes harshly, Republicans who have strayed. Pointing out behavior by a Republican that is inconsistent with the principles set out in these commentaries does not mean we are wrong in our position. What it does mean is that the cited Republican has lost his way.
2. "Limited government" does not mean "no government." We repeatedly hit the theme that government should be limited and taxes should be low. This is not to say that government has no legitimate role. Police and fire protection, the administration of justice, highway systems, and national defense are clearly proper roles of government. In a recent online comment, a writer indicated that my argument for self-reliance and limited government was negated by the fact that I have degrees from state universities. I think the vast majority of people would agree that public education is a legitimate role of government, but to make it clear, the fact that I have degrees from state universities does not mean that you are justified in forcing the rest of us to pay for your health insurance.
3. "Self-Reliance" does not mean cooperating with no one. To the joy of some and the horror of others, I have often used sports analogies to point out the virtue of self-reliance and the abilities and potential in each of us. It also points up the misguided notion that government needs to take care of us. This does not mean that there is not broad cooperation among members of society continuously. However, engaging in commerce, volunteer activities, and voluntary society is quite different than having the government force you to do or contribute something. To answer one recent online comment, the fact that there are volunteer pacers, crew, and aid stations at the Leadville Trail 100 does not mean that you are entitled to force the rest of us to pay for your health insurance.
Rick Akin is an Attorney practicing in Steamboat Springs and Austin, Texas, a former member of the Pilot and Today Editorial Board, and a Director of the Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado. His great-grandparents moved to Steamboat in 1926. He holds a BA from Oklahoma and a doctorate from the Univ. of Texas. He will never win a Nobel Peace Prize.