When it comes the Republican presidential primary, one thing is clear: conservatives are restless. There seems to be a consensus (well founded or not) among many conservatives that the "big three"—McCain, Romney, and Giuliani—have either questionable conservative credentials, or are blatantly hostile to conservative positions on key policy questions. Social conservatives seem to be having an especially difficult time finding an acceptable candidate to support.
In the midst of all the whining and complaining, Representative Tom Tancredo has rightly observed, "The conservative movement is not supposed to choose a candidate; it's supposed to produce one." He's exactly right! Conservative voters should not be relegated to passively choosing the "best of the worst". The conservative movement should be producing top quality candidates for office at every level of government, including the presidency. This requires, however, that the movement be proactive, rather than reactive (as conservatives are rather wont to be), in generating candidates. But Mr. Tancredo's axiom is right: Conservatives should be producing candidates, not merely choosing them.
To start, conservatives need to identify men and women who have demonstrated potential to serve in public office. Who in our community has the virtues, personality, and drive to succeed as an elected official? Who is sympathetic to our goals? In any given community there are dozens of people who would make fine public servants, and nationally, there are many men and women who would be excellent presidential candidates. We need to identity these promising individuals well in advance of the elections in which we want them to run.
Next, the conservative movement must recruit candidates to run for office. We should approach the promising men and women in our community and cast a vision of public service for them. Most Americans would rather get a root canal, without anesthesia, than run for elected office. We have all seen how candidates are treated by the media, and how candidates treat each other. Therefore, recruitment will not be easy. Nevertheless, conservatives often have a natural desire to serve, and they are passionate about helping to build a healthy, flourishing community. Therefore, if we cast the right vision, the conservative movement could recruit many outstanding candidates.