Neo-, paleo-, theo-, crunchy, compassionate, fiscal, social. . . in modern America there are almost as many brands of conservatism as there are conservatives. To truly understand what a conservative believes, though, it is often more instructive to simply ask what it is they want to conserve.
Like Russell Kirk, I believe the institution most essential to conserve is the family. At Canon & Culture I offer a “tentative manifesto” of what a family-first conservatism would entail:
I believe that while ultimate sovereignty belongs to God alone, he delegates authority throughout society to various institutional structures (churches, businesses, the state, etc.). Naturally, these institutions are not immune to the effects of sin or human depravity, but they still retain the legitimate authority given to them by our Creator. Although each of these institutions is important, the most essential and primary is the family.
My political philosophy could be called “family-first conservatism” for I believe in our current period within Western history, the institution of the family should be given pride of place in decisions about public policy and the creation of social norms.
While family-first conservatism is rather limited in scope—merely an emphasis within conservatism rather than a distinct branch—I believe it is robust enough to generate a core set of principles and policy prescriptions.