There are many lessons conservatives might draw from the disappointing results on Nov. 6, but a need to radically overhaul the Right isn't one of them. So what if exit polls showed that a plurality of Americans, unlike most Republicans, now support same-sex marriage and higher tax rates on the wealthy? The same polls show that majorities of Americans believe that Washington should do less and that taxes should not be raised to cut the deficit. American conservatism didn't arise from a yearning to conform to public opinion. Its raison d'être was to defend constitutional liberty and economic opportunity – free men and free markets – and to make the case that human dignity and prosperity flourish not when government is all-powerful, but when it is limited. Sometimes that conservative message has been politically popular. Sometimes it has meant standing athwart history, yelling "Stop!"
Meanwhile, fights on the Right are nothing new. In the wake of Obama's re-election, conservatives may be at loggerheads over immigration or gay marriage or defense cuts, but when haven't we clashed over how to translate principle into policy? From Romneycare to waterboarding, from racial preferences to drug legalization, from libertarians to the religious Right, the conservative movement has always bubbled with debate and disagreement, while the Left, for all its talk about "diversity," rarely seems to show any.
Liberalism has done a lot of damage. It is poised, in Obama's second term, to do even more. So the future of conservatism is going to be a busy one. Let's face that future with optimism, patience, and cogent argument.
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