Similarly, social conservatives feel marginalized as their hard fought ballot victories that offered protection of marriage and family are contested by lawyers, legislators, and courts. The feeling of victory that many felt after Proposition 8 passed in California, reversing the legalization of gay marriage by a rogue supreme court; was soon taken away as law suits, protests, and threats erupted in California. Finally, national security conservatives wonder whether their concerns about Iraq, Iran, and terrorism will go unheeded.
At this moment in history it would be easy for conservatives to blame everyone else for our defeat. Anger and rejection will cause some to just wait for the other side to make a mistake. A better approach to take is a posture of positive engagement. But where do we begin? Our help may not be wanted right now, but America cannot climb out of the pit we are in on so many fronts without a large majority of people engaged and involved in the solution. This kind of engagement starts with a qualified post mortem. We conservatives must take ownership of our defeat. Unfortunately, the following words of Shakespeare are most appropriate “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in us …”
Next year can mark the beginning of a new era of conservative activism. We must acknowledge that we have lost touch with the masses. The average person sees us as doctrinaire, mean-spirited, and hypocritical. In essence we have to return to walking the walk and strengthen our core values. This has to be done while sharpening our message and explaining our methods. The black and Hispanic vote for marriage amendments around the country, despite their overwhelming support for Barack Obama, demonstrates that there is hope for conservatives to make huge inroads into minority communities. A new breed of minority voter is emerging that can be reached with the right message.
Political cycles are inevitable, but urgent action must be taken right now. Leadership guru John Kotter makes a powerful statement in his new book A Sense of Urgency. He says, “When the urgency challenge is not handled well, even very capable and resource-rich organizations can suffer greatly. When the challenge is handled well, even those who face formidable obstacles can produce results we all want for our careers, employers, and nations.” We conservatives must re-invent and re-package ourselves. This must be done immediately. An integral part of this re-inventing must be recruiting a new field of younger non-traditional candidates rich with women, blacks, and Hispanics. Now it is our turn to create “change you can believe in.”
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.