The conservative movement finds itself in an uncomfortable position. A conservative response would be two-fold: (1) Campaign your heart out, then accept the judgment of the market in the primaries and, in the general election, don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good: support the more conservative candidate. (2) Recognize where the conservative movement has failed and strive to do better.
The fact is most conservatives spend most of their time preaching to the converted – principally on talk radio, in blogs and opinion journals. Conservative think tanks offer conservative proposals to conservative lawmakers. But few strong conservatives do the hard work of attempting to bring around open-minded independents and moderate conservatives – the voters who matter most in most elections.
This year’s election will be unusually consequential. In 2006, Democrats regained control of both houses of Congress. Democrats also now hold a majority of governors’ mansions and state legislatures. The left long has been regnant on America’s campuses, in the mainstream news media, in the entertainment industry, and in the unions.
A Clinton or Obama victory would put all levers of power into the same hands. What would Democratic Party bosses do with that? How about statehood for Washington, D.C. which would provide two new Democratic votes in the Senate? How about appointing judges who regard the Constitution as clay, and using immigration policy to expand the left’s electoral margins? These and other creative maneuvers could create an anti-conservative majority that would last a generation or more.
Most worrisome of all: Americans today are engaged in a conflict as serious as any we have ever fought. Romney and McCain get that. Perhaps Hillary Clinton does, too, though you wouldn’t know it from anything she’s said recently. But does Barack Obama? Or does he think it’s all a big misunderstanding, one that can be resolved through talk, appeasement, global anti-poverty programs and a sincere effort to make ourselves inoffensive to those sworn to destroy us?
Thinking hard about such questions over the months ahead would be not just alright; it would be commendable – and conservative.