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Views from the Right column: They don't write obits like this, anymore

D.M. OKeefe

I don't know how many times I've heard, "How can you be a conservative?" Not why, but how, as though conservative beliefs and I are like oil and water. I'm a nice person, I'm told. I have friends and family of color, some who are immigrants. I'm a lifelong volunteer. I support environmental organizations and many charities. I rescue animals. I even voted once for Ralph Nader.

The questioners, whom I love dearly, think they know me totally. We share history and values. But they are also liberals who can't imagine me way across the political spectrum where stingy and heartless white supremacists reside. They have never asked if I'm a racist. That isn't comprehensible and politics has never been the glue that binds us anyway.

I can't explain conservatism in the time allowed for political chats these days. Nor can I squeeze the philosophy into a ten-word tweet. My simple explanation is that most conservative solutions to fiscal, economic and social problems make sense to me. And though the majority of conservatives are Republicans, many Republicans are not conservative.

Conservatives want a smaller federal government. And states less dependent on federal cost sharing and subsidies that encourage more state spending, borrowing, and taxing. Our $20 trillion national debt and former $2.2 billion state deficit seem as fiscally irresponsible as government can get. Government redistribution of wealth to pay for arbitrary programs is unethical and often unconstitutional. As Ronald Reagan thought, the greatest advances in education, science, and technology come from entrepreneurs and research in the private sector. A lot of nothing can come from government grants.

I agree with one progressive—Franklin D. Roosevelt—in that it's best not to unionize public employees. Providing public benefits that most taxpayers don't enjoy to avoid paralyzing strikes is why I supported Act 10. That which unions saw as injustices I see as privileges not approved by voters. I never expected, though, violent backlash from those who disagree. Their definition of injustice pales next to the many injustices of the turbulent 1960s of my youth. A partial list follows.

Political assassinations. Extreme discrimination and race riots. Lynching. A military draft for an undeclared war. Anti-War protests. Forty-eight thousand military funerals. Domestic terror. Sexism in the workplace. Life threatening air and water pollution. They all negatively affected tens of millions of Americans. No one person or party was blamed. Voters expected politicians on both left and right to address the causes and end the chaos.

I never imagined efforts to make state government more fiscally responsible 50 years later would incite vandalism of public and private property, death threats to politicians, and recall elections. When rage was directed at Republican voters, I was afraid to wear an American flag pin in my adopted hometown. Fear became anger when outside protest sympathizers with broader political agendas harassed my state's Republican officials and damaged the state house.

Legitimate civil rights violations can be taken peacefully to court. Instead of subpoenas, our officials received Occupy Madison. When an out-of-state friend supported the occupation, I ended our friendship. Her misguided comments over a constitutionally sound law were personal, as though I wanted teachers to live on welfare. It still saddens me.

Personal experiences pushed me farther from today's social justice initiatives and progressive policies. I'm not an intellectual but I understand conservatism. My hope is that community columns such as this will give liberal readers a new way of seeing political opponents. Not as deplorable enemies, but rather as caring fellow citizens with different perspectives on making America and Wisconsin better than they already are.