I’ve always been competitive but never ambitious, but were I ambitious, I would feel that I had at last arrived. Some letter writer, basking in the reflected glory of George Bush’s re-election, included me in a list of what he called "limousine liberals."

He couldn’t be more wrong. I am a blue-collar working guy. Some journalists have pretensions of being professionals, but we are really just a bunch of Joe Lunch Buckets working in an information factory. And I am not a liberal.

His mistake was in his apparent definition of "conservative," which he seems to think is somebody who is in favor of foreign wars and against gay marriage and abortion. That is a definition of conservative straight out of the "How to Dupe the Dumb Masses" manual used by professional campaign managers like Karl Rove.

So, let me explain what a conservative is. A conservative believes that not only should the Supreme Court strictly construe the Constitution, but so should the president, the House, the Senate, governors, mayors and everybody else. A conservative does not approve of wars, except in defense of the land and the people, and only upon a declaration of war by both houses of Congress. A war to liberate somebody else from a nasty government is unconstitutional, illegal and immoral.

To strictly construe the Constitution is to recognize that it is not a "living document" to be amended by interpretation, but rather is a contract between the states and the federal government. To be properly construed, it must be read in the context of the times in which it was written and adopted.

A conservative is against foreign aid. Nowhere in the Constitution is Congress authorized to tax the American people and then hand their money to a foreign government as either a gift or a loan. Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government authorized to provide welfare, health care, housing or education. Nowhere in the Constitution does it mention abortion or gay marriage. Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government authorized to subsidize either individuals or corporations.

Philosophical and moral issues are to be decided by the legislatures of the states, not by federal courts or even by Congress, whose duties and powers are strictly limited by the Constitution. Whether homosexuals should be allowed to marry or form civil unions and whether abortion should be legal or illegal are both questions to be decided by the state legislatures. No state or federal judge should have a say in the matter, and Congress likewise has no authority to intervene one way or the other.

A conservative Christian believes that his own soul is not imperiled if other people down the street decide to do some sinning. A conservative Christian recognizes that he is commanded to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and comfort the sick and dying. He is not commanded to shift this responsibility to government. He is not commanded to judge other people’s lives and to regulate their behavior. A conservative Christian recognizes that something does not have to be illegal in order for him to refrain from doing it.

A conservative believes in the real, traditional values of this country: courage, hard work, self-reliance, frugality, chastity before marriage, faithfulness after marriage, loyalty to family and loyalty to the Constitution. Loyalty to a political party or to a politician is profoundly un-American.

Now, it should be noted that the republic handed to us by our Founding Fathers died with the Confederate States of America. That’s what that war was about. Since then, we have had a centralized national government ever increasing its powers, and an imperialistic foreign policy. People in Washington pay lip service, if that, to the Constitution, and people outside of Washington don’t seem to care.

As for traditional values, they are little observed. America is a decadent country, especially its cultural elite. One would have to be deaf, blind and living in a monastery not to recognize this. A true conservative has no place in either major party. They are both committed to a centralized government at home and imperialism abroad. One’s only choice on Election Day is to try to pick the more competent of two candidates.

So there. I am not a limousine liberal. I am a homeless conservative living in an empire.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.