The second problem for conservatives is that a defensive movement cannot regain lost ground. Considering the left’s political gains and their success in attacking the Judeo-Christian foundations of liberty in American culture, stalling the left’s advance now would still leave liberty with its back against the wall of socialism.
In short, it is time for conservatives to realize that ‘Hell No’ is not a political strategy.
It is not the failure of conservative ideas and principles that have lost ground for the cause of liberty, but the right’s failure to develop and execute a proactive political strategy, one that tells the electorate what we are for and not just what we are against, one that educates voters outside the conservative base about the benefits of liberty and the power of free enterprise.
As Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots said recently, “Our Forefathers were not content railing against the Crown…They fought for freedom and liberty.” Martin belongs to a new generation of conservative leaders calling not for the mere rebranding of conservatism but for its transformation from a defensive force into a positive force with a vision for liberty and a plan for taking that vision to the electorate.
A transformed conservative movement would still make the case against the inefficiencies and the inevitable abuses of power that come with big government, but the case would not stop there. Thomas Sowell and other economists have made the case that free enterprise provides a higher standard of living and better upward mobility than state-controlled economies. The Heritage Foundation and other conservative groups have a wealth of proposals that address problems with our health care system by expanding personal choice and reducing government control. The right has sound and workable ideas on issue after issue, but, at present, only the conservative base ever hears those ideas.
Liberty works, but our cultural institutions – education, news, and entertainment – are dominated by the left. If the case for liberty is to taken into a culture increasingly conditioned to the idea that the only good government is big government, the conservative movement will have to do an end run around the left’s institutions and take our case directly into our communities. The grassroots vehicle is there, if conservatives can expand our thinking from Taxed Enough Already to Teaching Every American that there is a better path than the one we’re following.
For the conservative movement, the alternative to transformation is to stay on the reactive path that brought us here, the path that leads Forward to socialism.