We live in a time of unprecedented conservative power in the United States. For the last decade, Republicans have controlled both houses of Congress. For 17 of the past 25 years we have controlled the White House. And for the last four-and-a-half years we have controlled both the legislative and executive branches of government.
It has been a period marked by achievements, at home and abroad. Welfare has been reformed and millions of families have found the freedom of work and home ownership. Taxes have been reduced, and despite the recession, 9/11, intense global competition and nature’s fury, the economy is growing. And democracy is spreading throughout the world as free peoples are turning once-outlaw regimes into new allies.
Yet after a decade of Republican control in Washington, we have not reduced the size of government, there is no balanced budget amendment, and pork-barrel and self-interest politics have grown. Special interest groups haven’t been defeated or tamed, they are thriving.
Now is the time for midcourse corrections to ensure the success of the conservative movement, as well as the American experiment. With that mission in mind, I would like to make a few suggestions of my own.
Intellectual conservatism was once defined by two clear goals - the defeat of communism and the reduction in the size, scope and sweep of government. There are three observations I’d like to make about this conservatism.
First, it was conservatism with a purpose. The goal of consigning communism to the ash heap of history was to eliminate oppression, increase liberty, and spread democracy. Similarly, limiting government’s scope wasn’t just about making the budget smaller or closing some departments, it was about the expansion of the unlimited potential of people.
Second, it was conservatism with definable objectives. We could tell whether or not communism was eliminated and government reduced.
Third, it was conservatism of hope. For many decades, the Cold War seemed to grow hotter while America’s morale fell lower. But we never gave up. We never stopped believing in the rightness of our cause.
Former Senator Rick Santorum is the author of It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good. He is writing a second book on the “Gathering Storm of the 21st Century” – the war against a radical, Islamic fascist enemy and its growing alliances around the world.
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