Many members of Congress who like to think of themselves as conservatives are supporting what appear to be very nonconservative ideas. Whether that charge is a fair one depends on both the appropriate meaning of the term "conservative" and a proper focus on what those members are advocating.
Let's start with three examples of what conservative legislators have in store for the country. First, there is the recently passed ban on "partial birth" abortions. Second, there is proposed legislation that would eliminate all suits seeking damages against gun manufacturers, even those based on state laws. And third, there is the possible constitutional amendment that would forbid all gay marriages.
In pursuit of campaign finance reform, many seek to reverse the precedent established by the Supreme Court in 1975, protecting campaign expenditures as free speech. But if the Court's ruling is overturned, the general protections of the First Amendment might be severely narrowed.
On January 30, 1976, the Supreme Court issued its historic decision in Buckley v. Valeo, which has set the constitutional contours of debate about campaign finance reform ever since. Many who would like to see the campaign finance laws changed have been frustrated by the parts of Buckley that used the First Amendment to strike down limits on expenditures by candidates and on independent expenditures by others. They believe that overruling those parts of Buckley is necessary to achieve fair elections for public office in this country.