As a conservative columnist and author of "The Optimism Advantage," I've been asked to speak on "Keeping Conservative Hope Alive" in light of President Obama's election victory. In the New Year, here are seven ways conservatives can earn renewed optimism for 2014 and beyond:
1. Conservatives reject victim thinking and dependency-inducing entitlements. We aren't victims, and we're not entitled to election victories. Life is difficult, and no political victory will be easy with America's changing values and demographics. True optimism comes from a track record of overcoming obstacles--Obama's election just added another obstacle! Get over it. We lost the election; let's get busy changing the mid-term results one state, one election at a time.
2. After the 2008 election, the president's team never left the swing states. Progressives organized and prepared for the ground game challenge they knew would come. They presold to the "jury of voters" a negative image of Romney--he's rich, out of touch, and succeeded at the expense of middle class Americans. But President Obama's "glow" will dim the coverage for potential 2016 Democratic challengers. Conservatives can use the next four years in critical swing states to promote our cadre of strong, young candidates like Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal. That starts now!
3. The mainline media will never provide balanced coverage, and the majority of Americans don't watch Fox News or listen to talk radio. It's up to YOU to risk selling the conservative principles you value. Winning arguments is overrated; you can win arguments and lose votes. Influence comes from sharing authentic testimonies of why you vote conservative. My Amazon eBook, You're a Republican! The Political Conversation Your Mother Told You Never to Have, provides a model for such a conversation. Don't wait for the perfect time, start seizing opportunities to take a confident, conservative stand. Give them distance with dignity to consider your views by respecting their right to disagree.
4. Sound principles must be taught early. Parents and grandparents are up against Hollywood, liberal school systems, and peer pressure working overtime to capture the hearts and minds of our children. Do your job! Set limits, discipline, and live out and explain your conservative values. Teach personal responsibility and pride in achievement, care enough to give back to your community, and nurture your faith. My book, "Favorite Family Lectures: The Secrets of Life Every Teen Wants to Know," helps start conversations about the values that matter most. Whatever resource you use, take the responsibility for educating your own children.
5. Don't pay the way to go to colleges and universities committed to turning your teenagers into raging liberal activists. At eighteen, they can go wherever they want, but you control what you will help fund. Good parents are respected, not always liked. State your limits. Use www.yaf.org to find schools worthy of support. To exercise their freedom to go elsewhere, let them have the freedom to pay the bill. Stop paying for progressive indoctrination.
6. Instead of reinforcing the "mean-spirited" Republican image with attack ads, put the primary focus on what we're for! Ronald Reagan shared his secret: "I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears. To your confidence, rather than your doubts." Instead of altering our values to reach America's changing demographics, feature a "Catch America Working" campaign honoring minority citizens who've succeeded because of the conservative principles they value and live. You don't need a lottery win or a government handout; here's how you earn your own American Dream!
7. True American confidence and strength doesn't comes from Washington but from what we do locally to make a difference for ourselves, our communities, and those in need. Get involved locally--your city, your local charities and your faith community. Nothing invigorates personal confidence and satisfaction more than giving back and serving real people. Government can attack your freedoms and take your money, but don't let them take your soul. Shine by serving.
We may be facing a challenging political and economic reality, but as conservative Americans, we believe that an America committed to personal responsibility and opportunity, free-enterprise competition, and limited government can remain the best hope for the world. For future generations now being saddled with limited freedoms, high taxes and growing debt, we can and must turn the tide, but we will have to earn that optimistic future together.