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The Empire is Striking Back

Just one year after “values voters” were credited with winning the 2004 election—and Karl Rove was lauded for his “brilliant” strategy of focusing on turning out Bush’s Christian conservative base—the chattering classes are saying the way to win is to eschew campaigning on values.

Opportunists are using Tuesday’s disappointing elections to advance a “moderate” ideology within the Republican Party.

The Washington Post today quotes Rep. Tom Davis (R.-Va.) as saying: "You basically had a cultural race — death penalty, immigration — and cultural races don’t play well in suburban areas…”

These are the new “talking points” for the “moderates.” Get ready for it.

These lines will be repeated over and over by people parroting Davis’ sentiments. Anyone hoping to appear an intelligent conversationalist will repeat these wise-sounding words as if they were Gospel.

They will puff out there chests on the cable shows and say, “Look, Chris, the bottom line is that you can’t win in the suburbs now days by being a cultural conservative.”

And it sounds so smart that a lot of people will believe them!

Since 1980, it has been generally accepted (within the Republican Party) that the way to win is to be conservative. Ever since the Reagan Revolution ousted the old-guard Republican “Empire,” it has been so.

The unfortunate byproduct of our success has been that the revolution has been infiltrated by Republicans who do not share our revolutionary goals; they do not believe in the tenets of Reagan’s Revolution. But they realize that the way to get ahead is to be a, “conservative.”

These sunshine revolutionists never truly believed in the cause. They have been waiting for twenty-five years for the chance to prove us wrong. (Perhaps reading Russell Kirk should be a prerequisite to joining our little club, but Reagan conservatism is inherently and correctly anti-elitist. We have wisely avoided any sort of litmus test.)

Twenty-five years after Reagan’s election, the left-wing of the Republican Party is launching a counter-attack on the revolution. In short, the Empire is Striking Back. Liberal Republicans see this as their opportunity to seize back control of the party. They will point to Bush’s approval ratings, and the off-year elections, as proof that the “modern world” has rejected cultural conservative arguments.

Of course, there were many, many factors that have already been repeated ad nauseum as to why Democrats won in New Jersey and Virginia, yesterday. I hardly believe that you could argue Forrester’s loss in New Jersey was due to his cultural conservative stands, which are non-existent. Thus, the people making this argument are basing it solely on the Virginia race.

It is an outlandish argument. But they are making it just the same.

In fairness, our conservative successes have given us a lot of “hanger’s-on.” Too many so-called conservative candidates are knaves who have exploited our deeply-held beliefs as a career opportunity for them. They aren’t true believers, but rather, opportunists.

I do not believe in a paint-by-numbers strategy of campaigning where some political hack can merely spout off conservative rhetoric and demagogue their way to victory. Anyone who believes they can get elected by merely reciting conservative rhetoric is wrong. Voters need to know how our policies will benefit them. I would argue that our culturally conservative values do benefit every American by providing a strong national defense, a healthy community where moms and dads aren’t afraid to walk home at night—and don’t have to worry when they put their children on the school bus in the morning.

Conservative values do resonate with suburbanites. Don’t buy the argument that traffic is the only thing you can talk about in these modern times (though it is certainly a big issue).

Yesterday’s elections are being used by moderate Republicans and Democrats to buttress an argument that America has finally wised up. Liberals will imply Americans no longer care about cultural values. Are we to believe that in the course of one year, we have all moved to the “burbs” and are now all sipping latte’s, watching “Sex and the City” reruns and wearing Isaac Mizrahi designer skirts?

If these are the new “modern times,” then Russell Kirk should surely ask for his book title back.

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Written By

Mr. Lewis has managed political campaigns and served as director of grassroots for the Leadership Institute, as well as political director for GOPAC. In 2002, Campaigns & Elections magazine selected him as a "Rising Star of Politics." He is the author of "Teaching Elephants to Talk." His blog can be read at MattLewis.org.

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