A fellow conservative I highly respect told me last week that he doesn't see how Republicans can ever regain the majority without reaching out to moderates, because, he said, only 30 percent of Americans are conservative. Let me try to clear up this growing misconception.
The issue is quite timely, considering that GOP-defecting Sen. Arlen Specter is rationalizing his self-serving move as necessitated by an increasingly intransigent conservatism in the Republican Party. He echoes the David Frum Republicans that the party is too conservative, backward-looking, stale and out of fresh ideas.
It's true that a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that only 21 percent of Americans now identify themselves as Republicans, compared with 35 percent as Democrats and 38 percent as independents. But there's a huge difference between party identification and ideological identification.
The bipartisan Battleground Poll, as recently as Aug. 20, 2008, revealed that 60 percent of Americans identify themselves as conservative and only 36 percent as liberal.
So it's the Republican Party that's in trouble, not conservatism. The GOP's shrinkage can't be because it's too conservative. George W. Bush, our most recent Republican president, was hardly an extreme conservative. His most outspoken critics today include wide swaths of conservatives who decried his failure to rein in federal spending and control illegal immigration, among other things.
And the GOP's 2008 presidential candidate, John McCain, was hardly a staunch conservative, either, lest he would never have been the liberal media's favorite Republican. McCain didn't lose because of any extreme conservatism. Nor did Obama win because he was honest about his liberalism, which he denied every time he was confronted about it.
Even though the nation is mostly conservative and "liberal" is still a dirty word, President Obama is moving us leftward at a breakneck pace by disguising his actions through smooth rhetoric and slick salesmanship. Obama is a consummate practitioner of presenting his extreme leftist agenda as moderate and mainstream.