A fellow conservative I highly respect told me last week that he doesn't see how Republicans can ever regain the majority without reaching out to moderates, because, he said, only 30 percent of Americans are conservative. Let me try to clear up this growing misconception.
The issue is quite timely, considering that GOP-defecting Sen. Arlen Specter is rationalizing his self-serving move as necessitated by an increasingly intransigent conservatism in the Republican Party. He echoes the David Frum Republicans that the party is too conservative, backward-looking, stale and out of fresh ideas.
It's true that a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that only 21 percent of Americans now identify themselves as Republicans, compared with 35 percent as Democrats and 38 percent as independents. But there's a huge difference between party identification and ideological identification.
The bipartisan Battleground Poll, as recently as Aug. 20, 2008, revealed that 60 percent of Americans identify themselves as conservative and only 36 percent as liberal.
So it's the Republican Party that's in trouble, not conservatism. The GOP's shrinkage can't be because it's too conservative. George W. Bush, our most recent Republican president, was hardly an extreme conservative. His most outspoken critics today include wide swaths of conservatives who decried his failure to rein in federal spending and control illegal immigration, among other things.
And the GOP's 2008 presidential candidate, John McCain, was hardly a staunch conservative, either, lest he would never have been the liberal media's favorite Republican. McCain didn't lose because of any extreme conservatism. Nor did Obama win because he was honest about his liberalism, which he denied every time he was confronted about it.
Even though the nation is mostly conservative and "liberal" is still a dirty word, President Obama is moving us leftward at a breakneck pace by disguising his actions through smooth rhetoric and slick salesmanship. Obama is a consummate practitioner of presenting his extreme leftist agenda as moderate and mainstream.
Obama tells us he's a disciple of capitalism while he gobbles up big chunks of the private sector and refuses to allow them out from under his government thumb when they try to refund their TARP money. He declares an end to earmarks as he signs a bill bloated with almost 9,000 of them. He boasts of his fiscal responsibility as he schemes to quadruple the deficit. He claims he's making America safer as he shares with terrorists our classified interrogation techniques and plans to release terrorist detainees on American soil, against the advice of his national security advisers.
With his upcoming Supreme Court pick, Obama will surely select an uncompromising liberal activist but present him or her as an objective, non-activist jurist -- as another step on his mission to mainstream extreme liberalism by masking it as centrism.
In his statements about his ideal justices, Obama, as always, has spoken out of both sides of his mouth as he has attempted to re-educate the public about the proper role of the high court.
On the one hand, he says he seeks a nominee "who shares (his) respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time." On the other, he says he wants a pragmatic justice with "empathy" -- one who understands "how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation."
But a justice who respects the Constitution would not be guided by pragmatism or empathy, which are irrelevant to the appellate judge's primary interpretive function. He would honor the court's role as interpreter of laws and would resist the temptation to become a part of an unelected super-legislature, understanding that to do otherwise would jeopardize our liberties.
From preserved audiotapes, we know Obama's vision for the high court. For all to hear, he lamented that the universally-recognized-as-liberal Warren court was not radical after all, because it didn't legislate what Obama calls economic justice: massive redistributions of wealth.
It's outrageous enough when the political branches redistribute the nation's wealth and the court lets them get away with it. But it would be taking it to an entirely new level if the court were to start doing it on its own -- a prospect that probably gives Obama goose bumps.
Obama knows that the advancement of his extremist agenda depends on his sophisticated propaganda campaign to fraudulently package extremism as mainstream and marginalize mainstream conservatism as extreme.
He will only succeed "to fundamentally change" America if the conservative majority stays silent, credulous and compliant and some of its would-be leaders keep covering for him. The upcoming Supreme Court nomination would be a good place to break this silence.