That was one of Newt Gingrich’s most important messages in a brilliant speech delivered to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington last month.
While the message may seem incongruous amid the fury of a presidential campaign, it is wise counsel nonetheless. Though he does not minimize the importance of the presidency, Gingrich rightly notes that, as the standard bearers for limited and local government, conservatives “should believe in a decentralized United States, where every elected official has real responsibility.” In light of this vision, Gingrich urges conservatives to devote energy, resources and intellectual capital to contests for the some 513,000 elected positions in the United States other than the presidency.
As you might expect, many conservatives have long-since taken this message to heart. For example, while Washington has bickered and bantered about our energy crisis, state leaders have taken concrete action to address the problem.
Consider the efforts of Chuck DeVore, a Republican legislator in the California State Assembly. DeVore recently stumped for a bill that would legalize nuclear power in the state. He was blocked by the Democrats, but now Governor Schwartzenegger announced to the Wall Street Journal that it is time for the Golden State to relook at nuclear power if it ever wants to meet energy demands for the future. DeVore has played a big role in bringing the issue out to the forefront and now he may gain real traction with the governor’s endorsement.
To be sure, conservatives may disagree on the merits of his nuclear bill. But that aside, we should applaud DeVore and his colleagues for taking action to address a problem that Washington refuses to confront in a serious manner. In order to maintain the strength of the conservative movement, we need to follow DeVore’s lead and advance state and local solutions for other issues such as healthcare, education and immigration.
In addition to heeding Gingrich’s advice to focus on state and local races, conservatives should also redouble our support for conservative leaders in Washington. But note that, like conservative efforts at the state and local level, this is a bottom-up approach rather than top-down from the White House.
Among those most worthy of our support are Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Representative Jeff Flake of Arizona. Both men have frontline foxholes in the battle over government spending.
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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