Conservatism currently rambles along bereft of one central champion to rally around though the principles are being put in practice by Republican Governors and legislatures across the land. The Economist had a big splashy cover last week with the myriad achievements and reforms. Best of all, evidence is rolling in that conservatism, when put into practice, works.
Nationally, though, Republicans seem intent on defending and protecting the state as it is. Well, some of them. Many folks, myself included, feel that it is simply not the government’s role to be the retirement package, old folks home, preschool, medical doctor, and hospital for American citizens. Baby boomers who haven’t adequately planned for the retirement vehemently disagree, of course. And it is my pessimistic view that they’ll be the end of us all.
Do younger libertarian kids get that idea intuitively even if they can’t articulate it? Are they feeling the weight of their parent’s generation, feeling the diminished opportunities, and worried about their future? I hope so. They need to be educated. If they knew, really knew, how President Obama’s policies were a knife to their guts, they’d vote Republican for life–if, and it’s a big if, the GOP will not abandon them, too.
So the right has some divides. The states are putting conservative policy in place but there’s no one nationally championing their success. Many of these governors enjoy the love of their constituents, too. They’ve figured out how to message without offending people. At a meeting with the National Bloggers Club, the Saturday morning of CPAC, Governor Scott Walker pleaded with fellow conservatives to message better. They’ve learned how to communicate tough messages and their citizens have been willing to live with the tough choices. Why? Because conservative policy sounds tough, but the results are always successful.
Federal entitlements require a different kind of courage and Republicans, like their Democrat brethren are loathe to make themselves vulnerable by telling a fearful populace the truth.
How do we shore up conservatism then? How does the conservative movement become more cohesive so that the Republicans in DC leaning toward statism are encouraged to move to a more conservative position?
Here’s my ideas:
1. Reacquaint conservatives with the old Masters.
Why do we go to church or synagogue every week? Because even though we’ve heard messages on love a hundred times, during that 101th message we suddenly hear something we missed before. An epiphany. We finally get it. All timeless principles are like that. Natural rights. The Broken Window fallacy. We need to make sure that we’re educated and re-educated about the principles of conservatism. The young people, especially, need to learn these principles to have the language to explain to their peers why they believe what they believe.
2. Seek policy solutions for everyone.
Can conservatives come up with a policy that’s pro-freedom for internet users? Everyone uses and loves the internet. Can conservatives show how the tax system is bigoted against women? It is. More importantly, can we offer solutions? Conservatives need to come together around some very tangible policy positions that will resonate with people who are in the working class. These folks have been extremely vulnerable. We need to help them–not for political purposes or to look caring–but because it’s the right thing to do and these folks are being left behind in the Obama economy. Putting these policies together will have the added benefit of folks on our side working together for something. When you work together for a common goal, it’s counter-productive to try to harm each other.
3. Start entertaining Reagan’s 11th commandment.
Embracing it might be far too much for most folks, at this point. It would be nice if people just considered this question: Have I been as aggressive with lefties? For example, Donald Trump attacked Michelle Malkin today. Why? Why not attack some prominent lefty? There’s altogether too much of this going on by people who claim to all be on the same side and it’s not helping. In fact, it’s harmful to everyone. Why did Reagan claim the 11th commandment? A vicious primary. He says,”The personal attacks against me during the primary finally became so heavy that the state Republican chairman, Gaylord Parkinson, postulated what he called the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. It’s a rule I followed during that campaign and have ever since.” Republicans have endured two brutal presidential primary seasons where the winners showed more fortitude destroying fellow Republicans and then went on to the general election and handled the Democrat opposition with relative kid gloves. This needs to change. We’re destroying good people needlessly. We end up with junky candidates because there’s so much fracturing and the bad blood remains.
Many competing forces struggle within the conservative movement. Real fiscal, social, and foreign policy divisions exist. While these issues work themselves out, maybe reorienting to first principles, seeking common policy ground, and remembering our true opposition will help keep cohesion, or dare I say, fusion?
Conservatism is a big tent and has many great ideas and the passion to uphold them. However, I fear that the continued strife and outward bickering is creating more distance from the very people we need to convince of the rightness of our ideas.
It’s not just bearable to be conservative, it’s great. Conservatism leads to success, states are proving that all over again. Now, to believe it enough to communicate it and create policy around it cohesively.