As far as I can tell, the number one reason a few conservatives give for hating Eric Greitens is that he might not be a conservative. He’s probably not. But that shouldn’t make any difference.
Figuring out whether Greitens is a conservative or not requires a lot of thinking, a lot of writing, and a lot of clear analysis from readers. I won’t waste time on the first two because I won’t get the last no matter what. The handful of conservatives who hate Greitens have made a big public investment in their hatred. That investment is too big an investment to abandon it now. At least, I think it is. I’d be impressed if they changed their minds. But I’m afraid that no amount of reason or logic or even persuasive psychological witchery will separate the Greitens-bashers from their conspiracy theories and angst.
Instead, I’ll just say two things about Greitens’s conservatism.
First, according to the dictionary definition, Greitens is probably not a conservative. Via Google Dictionary:
conservative: noun: a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.
Greitens fails the test here. Greitens is not averse to change in Missouri politics. In fact, that’s the whole reason he’s running. He wants to change, not only politics, but the people involved in politics. He’s running to clean house in Jefferson City. He wants to scrub the capital of the human detritus that commissions slander videos like the one that attacked him last Thursday. Greitens wants to return state government to something that helps Missouri grow. He’s tired of his home state lagging behind the nation in almost every area of growth. Greitens holds a claim on traditional values, but that doesn’t rescue him according to this definition. There’s an “and” between “averse to change” and “holds traditional values.” To be a conservative, one must have both. And Greitens is not averse to change. He’s all for beneficial changes for Missouri.
Second, it doesn’t matter whether Greitens is a conservative. It doesn’t. A few years ago, I listened to about 30 Republican candidates stand up and say, “I am a Constitutional Conservative.” They sounded like robots programmed to begin every sentence with those words. I wrote about it at the time. Many of those “Constitutional Conservatives” went to Jefferson City to do whatever their masters at the chamber of commerce tell them to do. These are good people who hold traditional values. And they’re true conservatives because they thwart change. They keep the revolving door between government and special interests spinning like a gyroscope. They became the grease that lubricates the business-as-usual machine in Jefferson City.
Eric Greitens won’t go to Jefferson City and grease the skids for the corrupt insiders. He will actually cause change. In order, his goals as governor are:
- End corruption
- Make government excellent
- Fight for the middle class
- Cut spending
- Protect life
- Support police and firefighters
- Protect faith
- Preserve the 2nd Amendment
- Improve education
- Reform welfare
- Support veterans
- Simplify the tax code
- Restore the American dream
Again, many of these reforms fly in the face of change aversion. But I think we need all the changes Greitens wants to make. I also think we need a governor who is an actual leader, not someone who’s been waiting his turn to occupy the seat. Greitens never waits his turn when positive action can get things done. He lives Patton’s general order: “when in doubt, attack.” His Navy records show that Greitens accomplishes his missions and moves onto the next. There is no waiting.
So I don’t care if Greitens fits Google’s definition of a conservative. Or yours. I care about making Missouri a place I can recommend to my kids and their kids. Right now, I can’t. There’s just not enough opportunity in Missouri. And it’s not the kids’ jobs to fix that–it’s ours.
Eric Greitens earned my support because Missouri needs change, not the status quo. If that’s not conservative, too damn bad.