Conservatism is more relevant than ever to American life, but much of the conservative movement has grown complacent, lazy, rigid, and out-of-touch. Too many conservatives went to D.C. to make a difference and hung around to make a few bucks. Too many conservatives have given up on moving America to the right and are now content to just hold the line so we don’t move any further backwards. That’s one of the dirty little secrets on the Right; real grassroots Tea Party conservatism FRIGHTENS a lot of conservatives, especially the ones in D.C. It’s not so much because they disagree with the sentiment, but because they’ve become so demoralized that they instinctively recoil from any meaningful effort to move the country to the right, rather than just stopping the movement to the left.
If you want to see a great example of how weak kneed much of the conservative movement has become, look back to the Bush years when the GOP controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House. What did the GOP do to move the country to the Right? Nothing of consequence besides the Bush tax cuts, which weren’t even permanent. In fact, you could make a good argument that the most significant piece of legislation during the Bush years was Medicare Part D, which moved the country to the LEFT, not the right. During the Bush years, there was even a push for comprehensive immigration reform, which was a politically suicidal attempt to pass legislation that was anathema to conservatives, would have hurt America, and would have handed several million additional votes to the Democratic Party. That is how cowed and intimidated many conservatives have become.
The refusal of conservatives in power to show the courage it takes to move the ball forward for conservatism puts the rest of the movement in an impossible position. We’re like a football team with a great defense and a mediocre offense that’s down by 21 points at the start of the fourth quarter. How do we catch up? We end up throwing Hail Marys in hopes that we’ll get lucky. We get overly excited about incendiary rhetoric, “pure” but unelectable candidates, or huge, almost impossible-to-pass bills. We propose Balanced Budget Amendments, the Fair Tax, The Ryan Plan — and it’s not that these are bad ideas. To the contrary, they’re great ideas that would be phenomenal for the country if they passed. But, there’s the rub. The American people are instinctively skeptical of big changes, every Democrat will oppose these bills, and we’d probably need 65 Republicans in the Senate to pass anything of consequence because they’re so meek. So, in the end, we propose these massive changes, we talk about them endlessly, and yet very few small steps to the right actually happen in practice. This is the political logjam conservatives have lived with from the late-nineties onward.
Liberals understand this process better than conservatives and play for the long- term. It’s how they changed America’s immigration system from something that was designed primarily to benefit America to a system that’s primarily designed to benefit them politically. It’s how they took control of the colleges. It’s what they’re doing with gay marriage, right now. The idea is not to force something through; it’s to take it one step at a time until it’s so much of a no-brainer that even the other side feels heavy pressure to vote for it. The Democrats suffer when they move away from this model, too. Look at their latest “Hail Mary” of the sort conservatives always seem to be advocating, Obamacare. In large part, as a result of that “success,” the Democrats had their worst election cycle in half a century and it’s still up in the air whether the program will ever fully go into effect. The GOP has had real long-term victories on gun control, taxes, and against the Soviet Union. But, the conservative movement has become too reflexive, too content to rest on its laurels, and too slow moving to follow up. Simply put, the Left seems to want to turn this nation into a godless European welfare state – - more than the Right wants to pulls us towards the principles and policies that have made America great. If you don’t believe that, consider how much ground we’ve ceded to the Left over the last few decades without a fight.
We complain that blacks and Hispanics vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, there’s not a single significant conservative outreach effort going on anywhere and there aren’t likely to be any soon because we’ve set up a no-win situation for ourselves. White conservatives won’t do outreach because they know they’ll be called racist no matter what they say; yet we give scant support to conservative race-based groups because we refuse to veer away from colorblindness. In other words, we’re essentially abandoning a quarter of the American electorate to the Democratic plantation without a real fight.
When a school is playing Al Gore’s movie, pushing gay propaganda, or teaching little kids about anal sex, where are the conservative parents? All too often, they’re missing in action and if you’re not willing to fight for your own kids, how are you going to fight for the country? The same goes for colleges. We have 18 year old kids going to universities where they’re being taught by Communists and actual left-wing terrorists like Bill Ayers and then we’re surprised to find out that they sound like Karl Marx when they graduate? Even if the parents won’t stand up, where are the conservative donors refusing to give money to these universities as long as they employ people like that? Where are the conservative state legislators? How can you, in good conscience, vote to funnel taxpayer money to schools that are teaching students to hate people like you?
Other than Fox News, the Washington Times, and a few other exceptions to the rule, the media is controlled by liberals who are almost uniformly hostile to Christianity, conservatism, and capitalism. How does this happen in a country where 40% of Americans are conservative? It’s no different in Hollywood. Have you noticed that directors and actors, whose entire careers are dependent on Americans of both political parties going to see their movies, don’t seem to have any fear of insulting conservatives? Will they insult liberals? Nope. Muslims? Nope. Christians and conservatives? Sure — because despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, we’re the tolerant ones. We’re the ones who’ll spend $10 a ticket at the theater to see a film featuring an actor who just made headlines by falsely calling us racists.
We complain that liberals get away with everything from leaving a woman to drown to death to running a prostitution ring and then half the time, we won’t even defend the people we agree with when they come under attack by the Left, mostly because THEY’RE BEING EFFECTIVE. We stand by, shrug our shoulders, and say “not my problem” when someone who’s doing good work is slandered under the flimsiest pretexts. Then we wonder why there’s no one left but establishment Republicans who are afraid to rock the boat when we need someone to stand up for the conservative cause.
Along those same lines, how is it that moderates detested by the GOP base can raise tens of millions of dollars to run for office and enormous sums can materialize practically out of thin air to feed the Occupy crowd, but almost every small independent conservative organization I know of is running on a shoestring? How is it that liberal bloggers can get their stories pushed at mainstream media outlets, when few big name conservative radio hosts and media outlets do anything to promote anyone other than themselves? It’s largely because liberals tend to view themselves as part of a growing, thriving movement while conservatives are much more likely to view themselves as part of a stagnating movement; so the people on our side often act like they’re protecting their own little fiefdoms and trying to get as much as they can before it all goes bad.
Last but not least, look at the churches. That’s the one major institution in American life, other than perhaps the military, that’s instinctively pro- conservative. Yet, what do we hear, even from many conservatives? We need to keep religion out of politics. Really? Because politics sure isn’t staying out of religion. There’s a non-stop, day-in-and-day-out assault on Christian values in this country. Atheists slur Christianity in the vilest terms, the media and Hollywood mock Christians, all while the government is pushing gay marriage and trying to drive Christianity from the public square. Meanwhile, most of the pastors in this country are too cowardly to speak up for their own faith and beliefs when they’re under attack. How many churches in this country have Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and put up YouTube videos featuring exceptional excerpts from their pastors’ speeches? When the enemies of Christianity embrace modern communication methods to reach young Americans while complacent Christian pastors are content to keep preaching to the same, increasingly older choir, with many conservatives giving the thumbs up to that whole process, people of faith aren’t being adequately represented in the political arena or in the conservative movement.
It’s much better to be right than wrong, but there are a lot of conservatives who still haven’t learned that being right is not enough. You can be right and lose an argument, a movement, and even your country. As Buddha once said, “Virtue is persecuted more by the wicked than it is loved by the good.” That’s why conservatism is the harder road. We have to be the adults. We have to be the ones who stand up for capitalism, Christianity, and country while liberals are telling everyone to go enjoy yourself, someone else will pay for it, and anyone who says there’s more to life than that just wants to ruin your good time. That’s what we’re fighting against and there are a lot of conservatives who need to remember that not only is this a fight, it’s a fight to move the ball forward, not a delaying action before a defeatist retreat into oblivion.