Is Instapundit a Conservative?

You may have wondered if Glenn Reynolds is a conservative. Today he writes:

“Not being a conservative myself …”

I have read his Instapundit blog nearly every day for a year. Being a non-liberal, I have found that I agree with him much more than not. This says that he is likely a non-liberal too. So if he is a non-liberal, what is he? In the same post he writes:

“As a libertarian myself …”

Many non-liberals, myself included, don’t like to wear labels. In particular, we don’t really like the label “conservative”. The conservative tent is so big; there are some in the tent that we would rather not be associated with. For example, Charles Krauthammer and Pat Robertson share this same tent. As do George Will and Jerry Falwell, John McCain and Ann Coulter. Myself, I really don’t want to imply that my political views are aligned with Pat Robertson or Ann Coulter. Robertson is kind of kooky, and Coulter is too caustic and intolerant.

“Libertarian” is a nice alternative label. But unfortunately this is a bit of a cop-out. Myself, if forced to choose a label, I will sometimes say libertarian instead of conservative too. Libertarians are for more freedom. Conservatives are kind of like libertarians – but wanting a lot more rules somewhere in the mix.

There is no avoiding labeling to some degree. For the biggest labels, there are only two: Left or Right. At some level, we must all choose one of these two. This is not an artificial divide. There is genuinely a rift in the country that roughly fits this paradigm. And in the America since the 1960s, Left or Right is referred to as liberal or conservative.

While many of us don’t like sharing the tent with many wearing the same label, none the less, we all must choose. It is a matter of intellectual honesty. Overall, are you left-of-center or right-of-center? Few are so moderate that they are neither. And few are so purely of some other political philosophy, such as libertarian, that they can claim that the Left/Right classification does not fit them.

Think about various political figures, including bloggers. It is typically easy to conclude if they are left-of-center or right-of-center. We all use this broad template as a starting point for pegging others. If we are being more sophisticated, we don’t use too broad of a brush. Indeed, if we over-generalize we miss much of the diversity of thought on either side of the political spectrum. And this diversity is often what drives us toward new thoughts, sparks creativity, and keeps things interesting.

Okay, back to Glenn Reynolds. If forced to choose, is Glenn on the Left or on the Right? I think that most reasonable observers would say that he is clearly right-of-center. Perhaps the term libertarian-conservative is a better term (one that I have also applied to myself). But again, if forced to a single label of liberal or conservative, Reynolds is a conservative. The term libertarian-conservative is not in mainstream usage (although I wish it was).

People often feel that they can duck the conservative label because they are liberal (or libertarian) on certain issues. The most common way out is by taking certain positions on social issues. Two key issues here lately are to allow abortions and gay marriage. Reynolds supports allowing both of these. So then isn’t he really a libertarian?

No. The big tent conservative movement is basically built around the principles that Ronald Reagan put in place. The order of priority, to the great bulk of conservatives, is roughly:

1) Assertive use of U.S. influence, including military force when justifiable, to further U.S. vital interests
2) Reducing the size and power of government
3) Reducing taxes and regulations
4) Expanding many freedoms such as free speech, freedom of association, free markets, and gun freedoms
5) Outlawing abortion, allowing school prayer, and supporting other conservative Christian causes

Some jump to the conclusion that #5 is really priority #1. Really? Go reading around the more popular conservative blogs. How much priority is given to #5? For abortion being so controversial, it is surprising how little attention that it gets. #1-#4 get the great bulk of attention and the passion.

Looking at these five categories, clearly Glenn Reynolds is a strong supporter of #1 through #4. Being libertarian or liberal on social issues, meaning #5, does not mean that the label conservative does not fit.

If the conservative label does not fit Glenn Reynolds, then why would the lefty bloggers often get so worked up about things that Reynolds writes? Do you think that the people writing or visiting at DailyKos feel any sense of common cause with Reynolds? I think not.

So Glenn, sorry to break the news to you – but you are a Conservative.

11 Responses to “Is Instapundit a Conservative?”

  1. Outside The Beltway | OTB Says:

    Right vs Left: The Labeling Game

    Every so often in the blogosphere, the old label argument rears its ugly head. Someone asserts that the old Left vs. Right and Liberal vs. Conservative labels don’t apply and a round of blog posts gets written in reaction.

    This time, Glenn Re…

  2. skip Says:

    This much is obvious, the old labels will have to change, Bob Taft wouldn’t recognize this Republican party. Foreign adventures, massive debt, domestic spying, library monitoring! This is ‘”conservative”?

  3. The Glittering Eye » Blog Archive » What’s in a name? Says:

    […] mprove things; quite the contrary, it’s probably a net negative.) Then Dan Morgan of NoSpeedBumps.com got things percolating along nicely with a post in which he concluded decisively that Glenn was, […]

  4. PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » A False Dichotomy Says:

    […] my
    By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:15 am

    A discussion has broken out over a post at Is Instapundit a Conservative? over Glenn Reynolds’ ideological persuasion. Wrote Dan Morgan of NoSpeedBump […]

  5. JorgXMckie Says:

    Would that the world were so simple. A common way to divide the ideological beliefs of Americans (it doesn’t work all that well for other democracies) is to put people on a double axis of Where they stand on the axis of personal liberty (freedom to smoke dope or be a prostitute or get an abortion, say) and social order (the classic Left-Right divide) and the axis of freedom to work and keep what you earn (capitalism or free market stuff) and equality of earnings (redistribution to the deserving or whatever.)

    On this model, Reynolds is clearly deeply in the quadrant defined by more freedom in general, and therefore a libertarian. In the opposite quadrant you would find those who believe in having the government make people more equal in the amount of resources they have as well as the government directing social behavior. Both Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan would be in this quadrant, although the would not be all that close to each other. People in this quadrant are usually called Populists (Ross Perot, too) or Communitarians.

    Nader would be closer to the quadrant that prefers more government control of the distribution of resources (and more personal freedom) that we usually call liberals, while Buchanan would be closer to the quadrant that favors less government control of your earnings but more social cohesion and less personal freedom, usually called conservatives.

    The problem arises from the fact that our electoral system really only allows room for two political parties with realistic chances of winning most elections. Thus, we tend to reduce everything to a single axis, which misses people who don’t fit conveniently.

    I am even more libertarian than Reynolds, and both liberals and people who define themselves as non-liberals evidently cannot understand that I am not a conservative. Just because you (whoever you is) finds it comfortable or convenient to place yourself on a single continuum doesn’t mean that works for everyone.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Fark all you people, I’m an anarchist.

  7. The Moderate Voice Says:

    So What Is A Conservative?

    TMV is the weary recipient of the label-sticking game. “How can you call yourself a moderate?” If you haven’t seen it, keep reading comments here during a given week and you’ll likely see it come from the right or the left (oh, the last one on the …

  8. Ed Driscoll.com Says:


    This seems to be the day to define terms–and maybe invent a few along the way. No Speed Bumps and VodkaPundit are debating what is a conservative, liberal and leftist, using the Professor as a Stretch Armstrong doll along the…

  9. JeremyR Says:

    I think you are mistaken in your list of what makes a conservative.

    1) Assertive use of U.S. influence, including military force when justifiable, to further U.S. vital interests

    That is really neither liberal or conservative. Liberals liked this when the US was intervening in places like Haiti. Quite a few conservatives dislike the Iraq war, ranging from the nusto conservatives to some mainstream ones.

    In fact, it used to be far more of a liberal concept, to use force for things, than conservative. That’s changed somewhat since Viet Nam, but Wilson and FDR were basically interventionists and both were quite liberal.

    2&3 probably. But then you have “compassionate” conservatism, like GWB, which is in favor of neither.

    4) is iffy, too. Guns, yeah. But lots of conservatives don’t really want to see more free speech when it comes to things like pornography. And how many want a free market when it comes to things like drugs?

    5) Is actually much bigger than you are making it. Lots of people in the Republican party vote only on one issue – Abortion. They might not talk about it all the time, but it shapes all of their choices. Notice how only the support for Dr. Rice for president only really comes from blogs like Instapundit or similar libertarian-conservative sites which don’t care about abortion.

    Labels like Libertarian-Conservative do have meaning, because they are a mix of libertarian and conservative ideas, but really don’t fit in either.

  10. edgr Says:

    Remember, the modern Republican party should not be taken as a definition of conservativism.

    The problem with trying to define everything in terms of liberal/conservative, or right/left, is that those labels aren’t clearly defined.

    For example, in the 19th century libertarians were broadly associated with leftist parties. Now they tend to be associated with right-of-centre parties, even though the modern Republican party doesn’t seem to be interested in small government at all.

  11. Dan Morgan Says:

    I find it surprising that the other bloggers and commenters seem to all reject the left/right classification. Yes, the labels are broad and vague, but that doesn’t mean that they have no value.

    This left/right quality is one of the most distinctive features of the blogosphere. See today’s post: http://nospeedbumps.com/?p=701

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