The State of Conservatism

by Sal on November 5, 2008

in Election 2008,Politics

The election is over, most of the votes are counted, and we lost.  All the talk of the polls and samplings, strategy and talking points, ads and stump speeches are now over, and we have a new President-elect.  McCain was graceful in his defeat, and we move forward.  As it stands at this hour, it looks like the Democrats will have a 56-seat majority in the Senate (57 if Franken ekes out a win in MN, but at this hour it’s razor-closeand Coleman has the lead), and will have picked up a modest 12-or so seats in the House.  Sarah Palin goes back to being Governor of Alaska and John McCain to Senator from Arizona. 

Republicans are now completely out of power in the Federal Government, as well as the majority of Governorships and State Legislatures, something that hasn’t been the case for fourteen years.  With all of this, the nation is poised to turn further left.  The question now turns to what went wrong, and what do we do from here? 

Republicans have only themselves to blame ourselves for this loss.  The country handed over power to Republicans in 2004 with significant margins in the House and Senate and the re-election of President Bush.  Yet in the four years since then, the Republican party has not stood for anything.  It has abandoned the core Conservative principles of Ronald Reagan by passing massive increases in spending, “Comprehensive” Immigration reform, bailouts of financial institutions, and getting too entrenched in the world of Washington Insider game.  In 2006, Americans saw the GOP as the party of wasteful spending and corruption.  The Republicans abandoned the principles set forth by Reagan and the 1994 Contract with America, and in doing so lost the support of the American People.  2008 completes that cycle.  We as a party nominated one of the more “moderate” members of our party to run for the Presidency.  While I have gained a great deal of respect and admiration for John McCain through this campaign, at the end of the day, like Bush, he is not a Conservative and he is not what this party needs at the top. 

It is true that circumstances played a large part in defining this election, with the financial crisis and the bailout.  Yet McCain could have pinned the whole crisis on the Democrats, but failed to do so.  He could have made the case that Conservatism was the answer, yet his performances at the debates (at least the first two) seemed to narrowly focused on spending when the real argument should have been less government intervention.  He was quick to blame greed and Wall Street, yet never focused on Congress as the real culprit.  In truth, McCain did not, as Ace says, have an underlying philosophy, such as Reaganism or even Bushism.  Most of his views were gut-checks, which is why he was so often inconsistent.  The leadership in Congress is no better.  Bohener and McConnell do not inspire me with confidence that we will suddenly change our ways. 

What is the answer then?  What do we do from here?  In spite of what the media says, we still live in a center-right country, as evinced by the fact that Obama ran much of his campaign as a center-right candidate (that the media let him get away with that is the real travesty).  He preached spending cuts and lower taxes, along with free health care and getting out of Iraq.  Through the course of the campaign, he constantly modified his positions, moderating them to the right. 

So if we are a center-right country, what must we do to move it to a Conservative country?  We need to consistently put Conservatism out there for people to see.  We need to respond to the Democrat policies not just with criticism, but with alternatives that do not put end up just being liberal lite.  We need to stay true to our principles, and criticize our own Republicans when they stray from those principles.  We can’t drink the Republican Kool-aid, but must instead make the Republicans move right. 

Through talk radio and the Internet, there is a tremendous potential for grass roots movements.  We already have seen examples of this with the Harriet Meyers nomination and the Immigration Debate.  Through talk radio and grass-roots organization, Conservatives successfully stopped those two policies put forth by our own leadership in Washington.  The left has taken the Internet and turned it into a powerful grassroots (or, as they call it, netroots, organization).  It has been argued that the liberal netroots played a large roll in the rise of Barack Obama, as well as in the political organization of his campaign.  Conservative Blogs, on the other hand, have tended towards news sites and reaction to current events.  Some have proposed the building of a rightroots movement to mirror the netroots movement.  The idea proposes using the Blogosphere to organize, not for Republicans per se, but for Conservatism.  I’m not sure if the idea will take off or not, but it is one practical way that people are thinking of to push a more grass-roots Conservative movement, which is obviously needed. 

We also have to look beyond the baby-boomer generation of Republicans, and look towards our future leaders.  This election once and for all should put to bed the idea that a Republican moderate can win an election by appealing to Independents and Democrats.  The future lies with people like Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, John Shaddig, Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, and others who are unabashedly Conservative and who can convey the message with strength that goes beyond the Main Stream Media directly to the American People. 

Conservatism as a force in government may be on hiatus, but the movement itself lives on strongly.  We as Conservatives need to regroup, rethink the way that we put forth our ideas, rethink how we organize, and work towards bringing more people into the conservative fold, both in red and blue states.  We can’t count on the Dems to mess things up (although that may very well happen);  we need to be proactive and work to convince our fellow citizens that limited government, lower taxes, and personal responsibility are the answers to many of the problems facing our country today.  The conversation has to begin now, here and on other blogs, on talk radio, and in other outlets.  We have two years until the next elections.  We have a lot of work to do, so let’s get to it.

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