Tony Blankley

In essence, not only Reagan, put the conservative public and the GOP flip-flopped on abortion -- in the right direction. And they flip-flopped for two reasons: As they studied the matter, they saw the error of their earlier position. As the fuller implications of the bad policy became publicly debated, the center of gravity of public opinion began to move away from the liberal and towards the conservative position, making it politically feasible for the party and movement to move.

In the past 15 years, the same process has been unfolding on cap-and-trade and individual health insurance mandates. At the time, cap-and-trade was seen as a less statist position for what was presumed to be a popular, liberal objective. As the debate developed, the public moved to the right, and both the GOP and conservatives generally flipped to the right position.

Regarding the individual health mandate, in 1993, the Heritage Foundation -- then as now the gold standard for conservative think tanks -- came out for individual health care mandates. And so did most GOP elected officials at both the federal and state level.

Remember, the Clinton White House had just started its fight for true socialized medicine -- what came to be known as Hillarycare. Initially, Hillarycare had the support of over 80 percent of the public, including a majority of conservatives. Heritage developed the individual insurance mandate as the lesser of two evils at a time when the Democrats controlled the White House, the Senate and the House.

In the following years, it became the GOP party position. So now, for example, Gov. Romney has proposed his famous Romneycare initiative.

As with abortion, when conservatives and the public started taking a closer look, the idea of any mandates became more and more repulsive. The idea of realistically challenging its constitutionality in the Supreme Court only became plausible with the later Court appointments of President George W. Bush.

The Tea Party should be very proud of the fact that it was its thought, debate and actions that moved the public center of gravity away from mandates. Eventually, with that closer study of the issue and as the public's center of ideological gravity moved to the right, the GOP and the conservative movement flip-flopped. Everyone from Heritage scholars to Romney to the GOP and most of its officeholders all flipped.

This is a good thing. Parties, movements and politicians should be encouraged to flip towards conservative, constitutional policies.

Only the most prophetic politicians -- if any -- can see far over the horizon. Even Winston Churchill supported military and naval budget cuts in the 1920s. It was not until the 1930s that he saw the threat from Germany and led the fight for rearmament.

When the entire party and movement are doing the flipping, individual politicians should not be penalized for moving in the right direction. They should be rewarded.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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