“The popular media narrative is that this country has shifted away from conservative ideals, as evidenced by the last two presidential elections. That’s what they think. That might be true if Republicans had actually nominated conservative candidates in 2008 and 2012.”
Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) drew applause with that line, as he spoke at last week’s “Conservative Political Action Conference’ (“CPAC”) in Maryland. And if there’s any sure-fire way to draw applause from a conservative audience in 2013, taking a swipe at both the media and the Republican Party is probably a good strategy.
Yet if there is somehow a false narrative in “the media” about America abandoning conservative ideals, it may also be true that the notion of America adhering to some set of conservative ideals is, perhaps, a bit of a false narrative as well. Implicit in Perry’s message is the assumption that, if only a “truly conservative” presidential candidate had appeared at the top of the ballot in the 2012 presidential election, then the outcome of the election would have been quite different, and our nation’s public policy would therefore look very different. And there is no doubt some grain of truth to his claim – neither fiscal conservatives nor social conservatives had any particular affinity for Mitt Romney, and this was probably part of what led to the lackluster voter turnout.
Yet evidence suggests that, even in heavily Republican regions of the country, very left-leaning, socialistic, Obama-styled public policy ideas are nonetheless thriving. Voters in these regions may give lots of lip service to things like the sanctity of life and traditional marriage, but the ideals of limited government and fiscal conservatism seem to have been abandoned in favor of President Obama’s explosive growth of social welfare programs. This would seem to refute Governor Perry’s assumptions about our country – and it should be alarming to all Americans.
Consider, for example, the predominantly Republican state of Arkansas (a state that Romney won in 2012). The state’s Governor, Mike Beebe, and U.S. Senator Mark Pryor are both Democrats. But Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr, U.S. Senator John Boozman, all four of the state’s U.S. House members and the majorities in both the state House of Representatives and State Senate, all belong in the Republican category.
Yet despite all the “R’s” that abound in the state, Arkansas has nonetheless gone full-tilt with the implementation of Obamacare. This is to say that the state has implemented a government-run health insurance exchange (26 states in the country have thus far refused to do this), and they have also voluntarily chosen to lower eligibility standards for Medicaid and, thus, to expand the number of Medicaid recipients.
Jay Bradford, Commissioner of the Arkansas Department of insurance, openly admits that the implementation of the insurance exchange will actually raise the price of insurance that cash-paying consumers have to face, but notes that the federal government is currently offering so much money in subsidies so insurance companies can offer either free or reduced-rate coverage (to those who qualify), that the opportunity was too good to pass-up. One can imagine that the decision to expand Medicaid in Arkansas was also based on another one of the President’s “too good to pass up” offers, in as much as the Obama Administration is currently offering to pay 100% of a state’s Medicaid expansion costs (the offer expires at the end of this year).
In case that isn’t sufficiently eye-opening, consider Idaho (yet another state that Mr. Romney won last year). Every one of Idaho’s statewide elective offices, including the office of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Superintendent of Education, Controller, Treasurer, and Secretary of State, is occupied by a Republican. The state’s two U.S. Senators, and its two U.S. House of Representatives members, are all Republicans. And the Republican Party holds supermajorities in both the state House of Representatives, and the state Senate.
Yet, despite Idaho being an extremely “red” state, a majority of Republicans in the state House and Senate have nonetheless sided with the minority of Democrats in the legislature and have voted to implement an Obamacare insurance exchange in the state (Republican Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter has been pushing his party to do this since last December). Estimates are that, despite the state’s tiny population of less than 1.8 million, insurance companies that operate in the state will take in upwards of $200 - $300 million in federal subsidies, once the insurance exchange is put in place.
Both Arkansas and Idaho have historically qualified as “pro life” states. Socially conservative Protestantism reigns supreme in Arkansas, while both Mormonism and Protestant Evangelicalism are predominate among the Idaho electorate. And three weeks ago Arkansas adopted the toughest statewide abortion restriction in the country. Yet these two states have both embraced Obamacare, despite the fact that the Obamacare insurance exchanges promise to provide funding for abortion-inducing drugs, and, likely, for the procedure of “mechanical abortion” itself.
The point of all this is obvious: in regions of the country where voters still profess to be “conservative,” “pro life,” and “Republican,” they are nonetheless empowering state and local leaders who are bringing about very liberal, socialistic public policy and who are expanding government dependency. Ideas about competitive private enterprise, private sector charity, and personal self-sufficiency are giving way to the promises of government welfare, even as the rhetoric of “traditional marriage” and “the sanctity of life” remains intact.
Rick Perry may be right, and America may once again “choose conservatism” as long as it is presented by the proper candidate.
It may also be true that Barack Obama has more fundamentally altered the fabric of America than anybody cares to admit.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.
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