Conservative ideology was not defeated last week! The conservative movement is one of the most encouraging trends in American social and political life today. Unfortunately, our walk has not always matched our talk. A few years ago, conservatives began a grass-roots reform movement; this movement has in recent years moved from the peanut gallery to the center stage of political control and power.
Last week’s election was a referendum on how the current administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have carried out a noble and lofty worldview. Perhaps the outcome last week was nothing more than a “mid term” report card. We conservatives have been grading ourselves as “A” pupils, yet our teacher and fellow students seem to think otherwise. The message sent by our deplorable report card was this: “If you ever want to have governing power again, you’d better clean up your act.”CNN’s exit polls gave us two reasons why Republicans were defeated at the polls – corruption and Iraq. If the people polled were honest in their assessment, these two elements mixed together created a new kind of Kryptonite. These polls say that the administration was graded on both competency and character.
Let’s talk about competence first. The war in Iraq, out-of-control gas prices, and economic devastation in states like Ohio speak to the average person of a wholesale lack of competence. Momentary setbacks can often be explained if we can look to big picture strategy. Although Republicans are generally better at messaging than the democrats, the lack of a clear vision for the nation left a void and made Republicans vulnerable.
In the absence of a compelling vision, people voted against their fears instead of choosing a dream for America. The same thing happened in 2004. Liberals were talking about changing the structure of our society so profoundly that values voters came to the polls with a sense of righteous indignation.
This year, we did not have a strategy explaining how we could really win in Iraq. Many folks felt as though they were being hustled and deceived – instead of honored, informed, and led. Therefore, conservatives in many states were defeated because the voters unanimously stated, “You have had your chance. Let’s see what the other guys can do.”
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.