Despite the GOP’s electoral victories of 2010, and despite polls consistently showing that conservatives outnumber liberals in the United States by a factor of 2 to 1, conservatives, including GOP voters, remain dissatisfied and even angry with the GOP. Few policy victories have been scored so far, while the Big Government Agenda of the Obama Administration proceeds ahead and the best presidential candidate the GOP can offer is Mitt Romney, a caricature RINO statist whose signature accomplishment is a socialized medicine scheme that served as a template for Obama’s scheme. What went wrong? And how to revive the GOP and the conservative movement?
Let us formulate answers to these questions.
Firstly, what went wrong?
It is true that the conservative movement currently lacks a single, unifying leader like Ronald Reagan, and that most prominent conservative leaders are not senior officeholders (current or former) and/or are not great speakers. But those are only minor problems. The fault is not with our stars, but with ourselves.
The biggest cause is that, as most conservatives already know, the GOP has betrayed conservative principles and is now a me-too moderate party that occassionally fights for conservative policies on a few issues.
The betrayal started shortly after Ronald Reagan left office. President Bush cut defense deeply, raised taxes, and nominated a pro-choice judge to the Supreme Court. In just 4 years he managed to undo most of the good that Reagan did.
Then, in the 1990s, Congressional Republicans collaborated with President Clinton on cutting defense, incompetently managed the government shutdown episode, and allowed entitlements to continue to grow on autopilot.
Then, in the 2000s, President George W. Bush grew the size and scope of the federal government hugely with schemes such as Part D of the Medicare program, the No Child Left Behind, gargantuan spending on education, pork-laden transportation bills, ethanol production mandates, the Patriot Act, and the McCain-Feingold Act, which he originally promised to veto.
And in the last year, Congressional Republicans, led by the hapless John Boehner and the equally hapless Eric Cantor, couldn’t bring themselves to cut federal spending by even 100 bn bucks per year or to try to abolish the Education Department. Earlier than that, 13 Republican Senators voted for the New START treaty, which is an act of unilateral disarmament by the US.
Of course, grassroots conservatives, including Republican voters, are also partially to blame. They don’t primary RINO officeholders, don’t really try to hold Republican officeholders’ feet to the fire, and still defend their entitlements. That’s right, most of the same grassroots conservatives who demand that the Congress cut spending in the same breath warn the Congress not to even think about cutting their SS and Medicare program benefits.
But the biggest share of the blame must go to the GOP, and specifically, to Republican officeholders, current and former.
So how to change this dire state of affairs? How revive the GOP and the conservative movement?
I think that instead of hoping for a new Ronald Reagan or some other “white knight” to emerge, Republicans need to start working themselves, right now.
Firstly, the entire party and the entire conservative movement – and that means anyone who wants to be called a “conservative” – must recommit themselves to the core principles of conservative ideology: limited government, obeying the Constitution as it is written, individual liberties, honoring America’s traditional values and national heritage, and a strong national defense (don’t you even try to remove it from the list of conservative principles, anti-defense folks). Whenever anyone lists conservative principles, all of them must be listed. We conservatives don’t have to argue about 100% or even 80% of all specific POLICIES, but we must agree on the principles, and on those policies that obviously serve these principles, and oppose those policies that are obviously inconsistent with conservatism.
Secondly, the balkanization of the conservative movement – the war between fiscal, social, and defense conservatives must end, and it must end now. Fiscal conservatives must stop demanding deep defense cuts and stop trying to chase social conservatives out of the Party. Social conservatives need to stop demanding that the social agenda (banning abortion and gay marriage) always come first ahead of all other issues. On defense issues, conservatives need to press for a reform of every aspect of how the DOD is staffed, organized, and operated needing reform, and with America’s entire foreign policy needing change to suit the American national interest instead of lofty visions of democratizing primitive countries.
Thirdly, any politician who votes regularly against conservative principles must be voted out of office and denied nomination for any new office. This applies first and foremost to repeat offender Mitt Romney, the author of socialized medicine in America, and to John Boehner and Eric Cantor. Conservatives need to unite behind a single GOP candidate to deny Romney the nomination and primary Boehner and Cantor (or, if these two guys survive their primaries, vote for their Democratic opponents in the general election). Actions must entail consequences. Commitments are sacred. Those who don’t honor commitments must be punished.
Last, but not least, we need to work out some (10-20) specific consensus policies that majority of conservatives (no policy will ever satisfy everyone) can unite behind and select 4-5 of them to be the most prominent, trademark demands of the conservative movement for the next decade or two. In the 1970s and 1980s, these policies were: reversing the defense cuts of the 1980s, cutting taxes, a strong dollar, stopping the Panama Canal Treaty, and abolishing the Departments of Education and Energy. What is it that we conservatives now want to implement, exactly?
If we do this hard work, we will advance conservative policies, and the GOP will win future elections by wide margins.
Ronald Reagan knew that he would eventually have to retire and and pass away. He wanted us conservatives to think for ourselves and to be able to achieve things by ourselves, working together. It is important to try to accomplish that exactly now. Let’s do it for him.