Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Now Is Our Time

Some Conservatives are naturally upset about how the election has gone. But while The One campaigned successfully with his mantra of “hope” and “change,” it has always been the Conservatives that embody hope. Indeed, unlike the Liberals who immediately whine of stolen elections when they don’t get their way, Conservatives do not live and die by political fortunes because we recognize that we are some things (read: “almost everything”) more important than politics.

So while it is okay for Conservatives to be disappointed that the Omighty One is elected, as a Conservative myself I see the countless reasons to remain optimistic, even in “defeat.” Consider just one number for a moment:


That’s how many people (according to the counts at the time of this writing—and look for it to be revised upward too) who voted against the Anointed One. Fifty-five million is not a small number. Fifty-five million is, indeed, a very substantial portion of our voting population.

There is fear that Obamessiah will try to institute many of his radical ideas. The media, who failed to do basic journalism and were so in the tank for the Chosen One from day one, engineered a victory for a man with some of the most questionable associations, statements, and beliefs ever elected. We’ve seen O lie about public financing, promise to bankrupt coal companies, and continue to lower the dollar cut-off for whose taxes will be raised upon.

But 55 million people are a check against him. Even with majorities in Congress, the Democrats have to acknowledge that the electorate has only given them a razor thin edge at the moment; if they try to do anything radical, that edge will shift immediately to the Republicans.

Conservatives can take heart about this. We are logical people. We understand that reality is real. All our dreams (or our father’s dreams) and hopes do not change what is real. And the reality is: 55,543,527 is not a landslide loss.

But while Conservatives deal with reality, let us also use our imaginations for just one moment. McCain got 55 million votes. Imagine what we could have done with a real candidate.

See, the Republicans nominated a weak candidate. McCain was burdened by being in the same party as an unpopular president, he was outspent in commercials, faced a hostile media, was inarticulate and unable to debate to save his life (or in this case his candidacy)…and he still got 55 million votes. Change any one of these factors and he would have won. So what could we have done with a real Conservative, one who understands Conservativism and therefore can defend it even against all of the above?

There is no reason we can’t have a real candidate in the future. Indeed, if Republicans are paying attention we will get that real candidate in four years.

Moderate Republicanism is a dead-end. And this election demonstrates the fruit of selling out our core principals. If Republicans ignore Conservatives, they lose; it’s that simple. If Americans want Liberalism, they can vote Democrat. If Republicans do not offer an alternative then why are they surprised when they lose?

Just to make it personal, after 2004 I could see that the Republican Party had strayed from its Conservative base. As a result, in 2006 I ceased to call myself a Republican. As Ronald Reagan would have said: “I did not leave the Republican Party; the Republican Party left me.” The Republicans ought to have seen the problems in 2006 given their massive losses in Congress. They ought to have realized that they could not win on a moderate ticket; they had to return to their Conservative roots.

They didn’t. Instead, they nominated McCain. Conservatives were told, “Support McCain because he’s electable.” (Good call there, RNC!) But I couldn’t do so. Only after what the media did to Joe the Plummer did I even think to vote for McCain. I never supported McCain, though; I just despised the media. And I’m not at all heartbroken that McCain lost. I had nothing invested in this man.

There’s more reason to hope though than just McCain. The Republican losses extended well beyond the presidency. The Democrats increased their majorities in both branches of Congress. This ought to be a major wake-up call for the Republican Party: you CANNOT win on moderate Republicanism!

Because we’ve now had two straight losses due to moderate Republicanism, even the densest political strategist ought to grasp that. That’s why McCain’s loss should be a good thing for Republicans. See, Conservatives like me are still waiting for you, dear leaders of the RNC, to return from your prodigal path. If you use this opportunity to reform and return to your Conservative roots, you will find success once again…plus I’ll be able to call myself a Republican again.

As I stated earlier, Conservativism is built upon logic. Unfortunately, logic is intentionally no longer taught in public school. But it is not very difficult to grasp for those who are interested in learning it, and simple analogies (which require candidates who are good at thinking on their feet, unlike McCain) can quickly show the error of virtually every fallacy even for those who do not wish to see. We need to teach people logic once again, to show them how empty and hollow Liberal rhetoric is.

Conservative ideas are strong because they are based on reality, not illusory dreams. It is preferable to be the party of rationality than the party of emotionalism, even if most people these days are irrational. This is still a position of strength because (as I also stated above) reality is real. That which is based on reason will win out in the end, no matter how deluded anyone may be.

This is why Conservativism wins. This is why we cannot give up on it for an easy “win” by caucusing with the intellectually lazy.

Related to that, we must argue for our ideas, especially since we do live in irrational times. It is not enough to simply present those ideas and hope others see the logic of the position. We must be able to defend each and every Conservative position. This requires Conservatives to have an understanding of Conservativism; we cannot accept candidates who claim to be Conservatives but who have no understanding of the philosophy behind it. This is how we ended up with moderate Republicans in the first place, and we’ve seen where that leads us. If Republicans seriously want to win again, they need to winnow the field. Cast out the RINOs. Insist that if you are going to call yourself a Republican there are certain philosophical standards you must uphold.

If Republicans do that, then they will begin to win again. But if they do not—if they are still convinced that “moderate” is the way to go—then Conservatives need to take the next step. This election ought to be our line in the sand. If the Republicans won’t return, then it is time for us to get rid of them. It is time for Conservatives to form their own party. Conservatives may have been hesitant in the past because we did not wish to lose everything by dividing the Republican vote with a third party…but Republicans have lost everything anyway. Conservatives have nothing left to lose in forming our own party.

It would naturally be preferable for Republicans to return to the Conservative fold. But this election has shown us that we Conservatives no longer need to be tied to Republicans on the false hope that it will provide us victory. And that, perhaps, is the greatest reason for optimism of all.

So Conservatives take heart. We did not lose this election, and now is the time to take back our party. The chaff has been cleared away, the façade broken. All excuses are banished. Now is our time.


  1. Peter, I admire your can-do spirit here, but, respectfully, I think that now is not the time, not yet. Your call to action to me seems to be rather like a call for dinosaurs to invest in bigger teeth, bigger tails, and heavier plating, when what is called for is the evolution of the horse. You point to "Conservative ideas," (pro-life, "our" social agenda, smaller government, limited taxes, a better climate for business, etc.), but there is something missing, and I would put that into the category of "applicability to real life." The people who were out celebrating last night don't want to hear about hard work, self-discipline and accountability. They'd rather have free health care, if not for themselves, then to make themselves feel better that their neighbor is at least taken care of.

    Conservatives need something like a horse to evolve, not bigger tail fins. Now is not the time to act. It's the time to reflect and think.

  2. One thing that baffles me: Why did a significant majority of the electorate vote extreme left instead of moderate right, when what we're supposedly clamoring for is traditional Republicanism?

    Makes no sense to me.

  3. CD!

    You're wrong!.

    Thanks for the post.

    You're ole buddy, Mark

  4. Hi John,

    Thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, I couldn't disagree more with your conclusion. We have all the thought needed already in place. Now IS the time to act (actually, 2006 was the time to act...but better late than never).

    This is the time to act because the Republicans are experiencing the problem right now. There's no time for them to try to wiggle out of it and pretend it's something else. So this is the perfect, and necessary, time to act.

    However, that said, part of our actions require us to argue our position. And we DO need to think about that. So there is a need for reflection and thought too; but not at the expense of letting go of this opportunity.

    I think there are enough conservatives who've been thinking and reflecting on these issues for that past two years that we can begin to act now, too. And we can carry along others.

    Note that I'm not saying we'll become a mega-force overnight, but we have to start now.

  5. Mesa Mike asked:
    One thing that baffles me: Why did a significant majority of the electorate vote extreme left instead of moderate right, when what we're supposedly clamoring for is traditional Republicanism?

    Because there was no traditional Republican candidate this year. McCain is no conservative; he's a moderate. I don't think you can underestimate how much this turned off conservatives. Even though many conservatives went out and voted for him anyway, they did so because they wanted the lesser of two evils, not because they wanted him to win it.

    That does impact the way that voters feel. Conservatives did not enthusiastically support McCain at all (indeed, he was the antithesis of many things we stand for), and that lack of enthusiasm harmed McCain, even if those same conservatives did vote for him.

    It was also difficult on many issues to distinguish McCain from Obama, other than for degree. McCain would have legislated similarly to how Obama will, yet under the mantle of "Republican." (BTW, I make that claim due to the fact that Obama will be unable to enforce the radical aspects of his agenda without losing his weak majority in the popular vote, and he's not going to want to risk that; as a result, his actual governance will be fairly close--not identical, but close--to how McCain would have governed had McCain won.)

    The net result is that there was no reason to vote FOR McCain, only reasons to vote against Obama. And you won't typically win elections that way.

  6. Oh yes, and I suppose if you're asking "Why did the Republicans choose this path if there really are a lot of Conservatives?" it's because Republicans assumed that Conservatives will vote for them not matter what, and they're trying to pick off the moderate vote. Republicans treat Conservatives pretty much how the Democrats treat blacks: toss a few scraps here and there, but mainly just ignore them knowing that they'll follow along in lock-step.

    The problem is, you don't win more Conservatives by assuming they'll just follow you no matter what. So the Republicans aren't making more converts. Conservativism is a winning philosophy, and when explained to people, people can grasp it. This is how Republicans first gained control of Congress in 1994. But after that, they ceased trying to make converts and began trying to pander to moderates.

    So right now, there are fewer Conservatives out there than there would have been; but this is not the "natural course" of things. If Republicans take the initiative to begin presenting Conservative arguments once more, they'll be back to where they were in 1994. If they don't do this, the Conservatives that are left need to realize that *WE* can do that too. There's no reason for us to rely on the Republicans to do it for us.

  7. Peter: "all the thought needed in place..."

    I'm wondering if you could direct me to that place. I'm thinking that "all that thought" is compartmentalized in a bunch of different places. But there is no unifying theme. When I was looking for a horse, I think that was kind of it.

    And that is different from "arguing our position". Reagan articulated it well: "It's morning in America. We need to have a strong defense, and I'll work to get government off our backs." (He also had Jimmy Carter to play off of.) That particular combination is not going to work in today's environment.

    Politics requires brute numbers, and attaining brute numbers requires persuasion, in order to build a coalition. I have no doubt in my mind that you, yourself, are persuaded. You are a very clear thinker. But It is very clear to me, having looked at the myriad candidates from this primary, (each one having his own constituency within "the party"), and also, looking at, for example, the theonomy/two-kingdoms discussions that are going on, that there is no such thing as even a Christian or conservative consensus, much less a Republican one.

  8. Regarding how inarticulate McCain was, it’s worth noting that this has been a problem for Republicans, at the presidential level, since Reagan. The elder Bush, Dole, the younger Bush, and McCain are poor communicators and poor at thinking on their feet, as Peter put it.

    I think that’s one of the reasons why Romney was appealing to a lot of Republicans this year. Romney isn’t a Reagan, but he’s significantly better than the candidates we’ve had in recent years in this regard. Romney had other problems, such as credibility. That credibility problem diminished his believability and likeability, despite his communication skills and his above average ability to think on his feet. In all three of the presidential elections won by Democrats since Reagan, the Democratic candidate has been significantly more like Reagan than the Republican in this respect. Clinton and Obama aren’t at Reagan’s level, but they’re much closer to that level than a Dole or a McCain. I think conservatives are a minority, but somebody like Reagan can persuade enough non-conservatives to vote for him so as to arrive at a majority. Self-identified liberals were still far outnumbered by self-identified moderates and conservatives in this election.

    I don’t think we’re anywhere near the point where a third party would be appropriate. I expect the next Republican nominee to be Bobby Jindal or somebody else who’s closer to Reagan than McCain.

    And though I think Obama will refrain from being as liberal as he’d like to be, I expect him to be much more liberal than McCain would have been. Obama can be liberal on issues like abortion and judges and get reelected, like Clinton. The fact that he can’t raise taxes as much as he’d like to, for example, doesn’t suggest that he’ll be similarly reserved on an issue like abortion or judges. Most voters are more concerned about their money than they are about something like the lives of children or the quality of judges.

  9. John,

    Again, thanks for your words. There are several places where Conservative thought is proclaimed (NRO, Weekly Standard, etc.--you can even include Limbaugh if you want). And I'm not saying Conservatives need to be lock-step on every issue. We have room for diversity within Conservative thought (compare Steyn, Goldberg, and Hanson, for instance, who largely agree but yet still have disagreements from time to time).

    Unfortunately the LEADERSHIP of the GOP has taken Conservatives for granted and has run candidates that are not Conservative at all assuming that Conservatives will care more about winning than about maintaining philosophical coherency. They tell us we must reach out to the moderates to win instead of trying to convert the moderates to Conservatives. And that's where the problem comes from.

    So the GOP does have a crisis of leadership going on. But the crisis is not caused by Conservativism. Conservatives already know the solution; we are simply being ignored.

  10. Jason,

    One quibble. You said:
    I think conservatives are a minority...

    Except that non-conservatives have to run under Conservative platforms. Even though none of us believes Obama, he still ran claiming to cut taxes on most Americans. That's not a Liberal position; that's a Conservative position. He still had to distance himself from his real position on gun control. He still had to say all the things that would appeal to Conservatives (regardless of whether you believe him or not). He even had to temper his statements on abortion.

    I think the average American is far more Conservative than Liberal, which is why "Liberalism" remains a dirty word and Democrats still run as if they are Conservatives (even if they then don't govern as such).

    I do agree however with your final statement that:
    Most voters are more concerned about their money than they are about something like the lives of children or the quality of judges.

    And I think it's for this reason that the voters don't hold politicians accountable for lying during the campaign. It's for this reason that the broken promises of Liberals running as Conservatives aren't punished. But this is not because Conservative ideas are unpopular; rather it is because most Americans are hopelessly immoral.

  11. Peter said:

    “Except that non-conservatives have to run under Conservative platforms. Even though none of us believes Obama, he still ran claiming to cut taxes on most Americans. That's not a Liberal position; that's a Conservative position. He still had to distance himself from his real position on gun control. He still had to say all the things that would appeal to Conservatives (regardless of whether you believe him or not). He even had to temper his statements on abortion….And I think it's for this reason that the voters don't hold politicians accountable for lying during the campaign. It's for this reason that the broken promises of Liberals running as Conservatives aren't punished. But this is not because Conservative ideas are unpopular; rather it is because most Americans are hopelessly immoral.”

    I agree that most Americans are conservative on some issues. And on some issues they’re inconsistent, sometimes conservative and sometimes not. They’re more concerned about their own tax bracket than the taxes of the wealthy, to the point where they’ll often go along with a tax plan that only cuts the taxes of the middle class or only raises the taxes of the upper class. Obama didn’t say that he would cut everybody’s taxes. As you’ve said, he offered tax cuts for most, not all. He said, inaccurately, that he would cut taxes for 95% and raise taxes for others. And while Obama tempered his statements on abortion, he still referred to himself as pro-choice. His support of the legality of partial-birth abortion and infanticide was explained by McCain in a debate viewed by tens of millions of people, for example, and the public showed little interest. The fact that Obama has to do so little tempering, on abortion as well as other issues, is revealing. His stated position on abortion wasn’t even moderate. His position on raising taxes on the upper class could be classified as moderate, but I wouldn’t classify it as conservative.

    I doubt that we disagree much. Most Americans are conservative on some issues, which gives conservative candidates an opportunity to appeal to them on those issues, then implement a larger conservative agenda once elected. But I wouldn’t say that most Americans are conservatives. Many non-conservatives are persuadable to some conservative positions, though, and I agree that we need candidates who are better at persuasion.

  12. Great post Peter! What is your assessment of the following commentary by a well-known pundit?

    "If the GOP decides to go in the Bobby Jindal direction (fundamental Christianity, creationism, hard-line anti-abortionism, aggressively anti-gay rights), it will be committing political suicide. As much as anything else, this election was a referendum on the social conservative agenda, and the social conservatives did not win."

    Excerpted from: Should the GOP Double Down on Social Conservatism?

  13. TUAD,

    It would be more believable if Prop 8 had failed in CA (to give one example). It would also be more believable if we had candidates who actually ran on those principals in the first place instead of the principal of "reaching across the aisle" to come to a "consensus."

    In any case, the polls (if they can be believed) indicate that the issue was the economy. What I read said that 60 percent noted the economy first. Nothing got more than 10 percent after that. So this election was not a referendum on social conservatism at all.

  14. "Now is our time."

    I kinda like Ann Coulter's suggestion on what to do with the GOP's navel-gazing time:

    "After showing nearly superhuman restraint throughout this campaign, which was lost the night McCain won the California primary, I am now liberated to announce that all I care about is hunting down and punishing every Republican who voted for McCain in the primaries. I have a list and am prepared to produce the names of every person who told me he was voting for McCain to the proper authorities.

    We'll start with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Then we shall march through the states of New Hampshire and South Carolina -- states that must never, ever be allowed to hold early Republican primaries again.

    For now, we have a new president-elect. In the spirit of reaching across the aisle, we owe it to the Democrats to show their president the exact same kind of respect and loyalty that they have shown our recent Republican president.

  15. Peter -- these are the kinds of things I was talking about:

    In the months ahead, the conservative movement will regroup. It will refine its principles for the present needs of the nation: growth, personal liberty, and national security. It will find the next generation of conservative political leaders. If President Obama really makes good on his promise to return to the New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society of the 1960s, a revitalized conservative movement will be back on top sooner than one might expect.,_the_bell_tolls_for_thee

    Goldwater's loss was constructive; it invigorated his party by reorienting it ideologically. McCain's loss was sterile, containing no seeds of intellectual rebirth....

    conservatives should note what their current condition demonstrates: Opinion is shiftable sand. It can be shifted, as Goldwater understood, by ideas, and by the other party overreaching, which the heavily Democratic Congress elected in 1964 promptly did.,_take_note