by John Hawkins | October 19, 2007 6:00 am
The conservative movement and the vehicle that we use to implement our ideas, the Republican Party, have a number of problems right now that need to be addressed. For example:
Taking Care Of The Base: The first rule of politics is to make sure that your base is reasonably happy and if they’re not, find a way to change that. Unfortunately, too many Republican politicians have forgotten that most basic of rules and they’ve allowed their biggest supporters to become dispirited and angry with them. Even the beatings that the GOP took in the 2006 election only partially shook George Bush and the Republicans in the Senate out of their stupor (To the House’s credit, it seems to have gotten the message). This anger/malaise is reflected in the lack of conservative activism right now, the querulousness of many conservatives, and the fundraising gap that has sprung up between Democrats and Republicans.
Yes, maybe some conservatives do have unreasonable expectations of Republicans in Congress, but that’s a reason for Republican pols to try even harder to make it clear to conservatives that their hearts are in the right place. The GOP absolutely cannot get back on track until conservatives feel that they are being well represented in DC and the Republican Party needs to make that happen.
Where’s Our Soros? The conservative movement has had plenty of rich, civic minded members who haven’t had a problem with greasing the wheels of democracy with a bit of lucre in the past, but the Left seems to be blowing our doors off in this area of late.
You can hardly turn around without finding some project funded by George Soros that’s making a political impact, but when we look for conservatives to do the same thing, we hear crickets chirping. There aren’t many conservatives who have enough money to make a big difference, but there are a few, and we need their help, now. If Soros and his limousine liberal pals are willing to spend the money while deep pocketed conservatives stand by and watch, the conservative movement — and this country — are going to suffer the consequences.
Practicality vs. Purity: Yes, we want politicians to live up to our expectations and when they don’t, they can expect consequences. On the other hand, if we refuse to vote for a Republican politician every time he does something we don’t like, we’re going to be responsible for putting Democrats in office who don’t agree with us on anything. That’s the dilemma conservatives always have to deal with: practicality vs. purity.
Unfortunately, the conservative movement has tilted too far towards expecting purity from Republicans in Congress — so much so in fact, that we’ve got conservatives threatening to form third parties if certain candidates are elected — even as different factions of the conservative movement beat up on each other on an almost daily basis. Like it or not, if we want to move the conservative agenda forward, we need Republicans in office to do it. Instead of sitting at home or forming third parties, we should follow the Club for Growth model, which involves supporting conservatives we do agree with — if necessary in primaries with other Republicans — rather than throwing tantrums and putting Democrats who oppose our agenda in office.
Technophobia: Liberals have made much better use of the internet as a messaging and fundraising tool than conservatives. Outside of a few notable exceptions, Republican politicians haven’t reached out to the new media, worked to close the gap between the GOP and Democrats online, or made an effort to effectively use the new technology and voices that have become available. That has got to change — and soon.
Ronald Reagan Isn’t Coming Back: Unfortunately for conservatives and for America, Presidents like Ronald Reagan only come along every 50 to 100 years. So, comparing every Republican politician who comes down the pike to Reagan — or worse yet, the idealized version of Reagan who has had all the times he deviated from conservative orthodoxy airbrushed out of existence — is only going to produce disappointment. Yes, we do want “Reagan conservatives” in Congress, but we can’t expect them to actually be men of Reagan’s stature.
Along those same lines, the needs of the country have changed since the Reagan years. Although much of the conservative agenda from those years is still relevant and important, there are issues that were not all that hot back then that conservatives aren’t addressing to the satisfaction of the American public — like health care and environmental concerns. So, we’ve got to make sure that our thinking doesn’t become stale and that we don’t become complacent as a movement about any issues of grave importance to the American public.
We Don’t Reach Out To New Constituencies: Conservatives have started to get into the bad habit of allowing ourselves to be perceived as hostile to potential blocks of new voters, for no good reason.
When Ken Mehlman was Chair of the RNC, he regularly reached out to black Americans. That seems to have stopped with his departure from the RNC. In the fight against illegal immigration, the Democrats have tried to falsely portray conservatives as being anti-Hispanic and some conservatives have unwittingly helped them with careless immigration rhetoric. Pre-9/11, the majority of Muslim Americans voted for the GOP because they shared our concerns about the culture, but some conservatives have started talking about all Muslims as if they’re the enemy, instead of specifically hammering away at terrorists and their supporters.
You don’t win in politics by needlessly alienating people or writing off whole blocks of the population that might be willing to vote for you. Granted, the GOP can’t be all things to all people, but it doesn’t hurt to make the best case for your principles to all potential constituencies.
Not Defending Our Own: Unlike the Left, which considers the only sins its members can engage in to be not being liberal enough or helping conservatives somehow, the Right doesn’t mind cracking down on our own when they deserve it.
Overall, that’s a good thing, because it keeps us from getting stuck with low-lifes like Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, and Bill Clinton, but the flipside is that we often don’t do enough to defend people on our side when they’re being unfairly attacked. In fact, as often as not, some of us will kick another conservative under a bus even though we don’t think he did anything wrong.
There has to be a happy medium between the Left’s Pavlovian defense of each other under almost any circumstances and the Right’s current willingness to too quickly agree with the Left’s lies about people on our side.
Abandoning Our Principles In Office: One of the weirder tics of American politics is that liberals typically pretend to be much more conservative than they are to get elected while conservatives run on their principles, then break their promises once they get in office because they believe, falsely oftentimes, that it will be to their political benefit.
If you want two perfect examples of how this works, look at spending, where almost every Republican politician claims to be a hard-nosed fiscal conservative — and illegal immigration where most GOP pols will swear on their mother’s life that they oppose amnesty and want to get tough on illegals. Obviously, the reality is much different than the campaign promises — but, it shouldn’t be.
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