The quest to identify and unite behind a conservative leader for president has officially begun.
With 15 months ahead of the most consequential election in our lifetimes, 17 candidates are vying for our support. It is undeniable there are several candidates who stand out and truly represent consistent, principled conservatism. And no—blowhard billionaire Donald Trump isn’t one of them.
The candidate who has a proven record of standing up to the Washington machine, a firm understanding of our values, and proven leadership will and should become our nominee.
American Enterprise Institute (AEI) president Arthur Brooks has authored a new book that beautifully lays out how conservatives – especially the eventual Republican nominee—can make a moral case for conservatism in the public square.
In his new book The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America, Brooks writes how conservatives can appeal to more people by putting our values into action without diluting our message.
He writes, “We need to stop focusing just on what we are against and boldly proclaim what we stand for. We need to put forward a hopeful, optimistic governing agenda—one that focuses on improving the lives of all people, especially the most vulnerable, through authentically conservative policies,” (16).
Here are three ways our movement can make an effective case for conservatism.
In a time of great political divide, it’s important to demonstrate how conservatism is a force for good. Conservatism, particularly free enterprise, has elevated people unlike any other philosophy out there. Why else have people flocked to the United States? They certainly didn’t come here to be subjected to more tyranny; they came here for freedom and opportunity. In contrast, collectivism (or big government on steroids) has historically resulted in misery, destitution, and death for those it oppresses. Equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome, has elevated people-especially Americans-to great heights. If conservatives can’t proudly tout how uplifting their values are, they will fail to succeed. It’s imperative to define ourselves before the Left does, and we must do so by being positive and assertive.
Give a human face to our values
As conservatives, it’s imperative to personalize our values. Telling stories about our movement’s successes will propel us to victory. Why do few success stories get broadcasted today? Has our movement lost sight of our principles? For example, we should be broadcasting stories of survivors of collectivism, stories of those who overcame poverty, and stories of small businesses who’ve successfully battled and overcome big government policies, just to name a few. Our values have universal appeal to people of all income brackets, social strata, races, and ages. Why do some communicators on our side fail to appeal to people? (That’s why my sister and I have launched a new effort called People of America to show how impactful, life-changing, and positive conservative values are when applied in society.) They also fail at storytelling because they are reluctant to use digital tools, social media, and images. If we fail to give a human face to conservatism, we will lose to our opponents.
The call for modernizing conservatism in the present day is often lumped with the call for diluting our values. “Conservatism is too extreme!” detractors say. What’s so radical about free enterprise, faith, and freedom? (Nothing!) In fact, people prefer authenticity over perceived fakeness—which explains why people are defecting to our side. Conservatives are generally honest about their views. As a result, consistent conservatism can stand out and win over undecided or disillusioned people to our side if the right ambassadors disseminate our message.
If conservatives don’t make the moral case for conservatism, our movement will fade into obsolescence. Let’s capitalize on our principles and pivot this country back in the right direction.