If I keep reading the advice of those who are saying we should give Barack Obama what he wants, let him take the American economy into the quicksand and make him own it, I am going to be tempted to agree.
So I’m going to stop reading such things.
With respect to those who offer that strategy, it is flawed on multiple levels. It may not work, it would confuse people about what conservatism is and what it does, and it would slam the brakes on our most valuable passion right now-- the desire to save what we can of America during this perilous second Obama term.
So, if you are in the mood, this is a call to battle.
The Obama win and the GOP Senate failures were like a tranquilizer dart to the neck, draining the will of millions of conservatives, and plenty of Republicans in Congress.
But we are starting to slowly awaken, and if we play our cards right, we can stand on core values and still look at ourselves in the mirror, win or lose.
I understand the appeal of an argument that says, “Okay, Mr. President. You won. You want this ship? Steer it into the rocks and we’ll be there to fix it afterward. Maybe then people will hear what we have to say.”
Except maybe they will, maybe they won’t. The notion of the public flocking to Republicans for rescue is a hard sell. Didn’t we kind of think they would do it this year?
Americans generally believe spending is out of control. We did not like the stimulus. We still don’t like Obamacare. November 6 was the perfect opportunity to turn to Republicans for relief from all three headaches.
It didn’t happen.
So now we think we’ll enjoy a popularity burst for throwing up our hands when the going gets tough?
And here’s the tricky thing: what if we let the Obama agenda roll and the expected disasters do not exactly happen?
Make no mistake, I know this second term is the worst news our economy could get. We should not be surprised to see America swirl even more deeply into the fiscal toilet.
But what if our system displays its occasional pesky resilience, and unemployment stays right where it is, or maybe only a tick or two worse? What if the stock market goes up another 3000 points by the 2014 elections? Markets rebounded strongly in 2009 and 2010 even as the fangs of Obama’s policies sank in.
Welcome to the worst conservative nightmare-- an American economy spunky enough to strain against the shackles of Obama, managing a glimmer of health just barely sufficient to fend off the stain of failure we would need for this grand experiment in surrender to succeed.
So as attractive as it sounds to abandon the post-election battlefield so that Obama can “own” the result, the risks are unacceptable.
It is time to re-arm.
Think of the candidates who will try to return the Senate to Republican hands, already mapping strategies for campaigns that will begin next year. Do we want to surround them with the torpor of ambivalence, or inspire them with a spirit determined to stave off the sour fate the 2012 results might otherwise deliver?
Unfair argument-settler: which one sounds like the path Ronald Reagan would choose?
So if we dispense with the capitulation talk, what remains is the debate over how to fight.
Republicans are dividing into characteristic corners of boldness and pragmatism. There are voices calling for choosing some battles now, saving others for later. This could prevent fiscal cliff-diving a month from now, but more perilous cliffs may await-- the ones that could spell our fiscal doom even if the Obama agenda bats .500.
So is it time to draw a line in the sand, asking America to join us in a quest for what we need most-- spending cuts? It is, and I pray there are enough stiff spines in Congress to make that stand.
We should not sign on to any plan that involves making job creators pay higher tax rates. If we are to entertain any closing of loopholes or striking of deductions (which are also tax increases), it should be upon receipt of iron-clad commitments from Democrats for real entitlement reform and other meaningful spending cuts.
That would seem highly unlikely. Still high on the adrenaline buzz of an election that seemed to smile on their big-government aspirations, Democrats are not in the mood to make deals.
Fine. Then let them be judged by that.
I know the media will paint any dark result as the fault of Republicans. Let them. It is time to stop worrying what the media say or how young and non-white voters might recoil at first.
We must do the right thing and let the chips fall where they may. Only then can we go to those voters we so deeply want to attract and say that we did it for them. They may not have appreciated it, but when we refused to let spending get even more obscene, we said no, and we did it for all Americans.
When we say no to further milking of top earners, we do it not to protect the Bentleys in their garages, but to protect the jobs they create with the money we let them keep.
Republicans lost in 2012 because we did a poor job of teaching voters why we are right. We are up against growing generations of people who are not learning life lessons from intact families instilling virtues of work and self-reliance. They are learning from government schools, liberal colleges and a twisted popular culture.
We will not deserve their attention if we have to explain how we gave up the fight in 2012 because the fight got hard. We will not deserve their respect if we fold our arms in a petulant tantrum and dare the Democrats to ruin the country so we can score an I told you so.
With Democrat heels dug in, the only common ground will be found when Republicans cave on core principles.
So let’s refuse to do that. This is not the last so-called fiscal cliff we will face. The second Obama term will feature deadline after deadline and crisis after crisis, all accompanied by Democrats and the media condemning us for our our refusal to give in to ideas that will only worsen the economy.
The first step toward earning public trust is to lead by example, even when the march is hard. It does not get much harder than right now. But wherever events lead, I want a Republican party that faces voters in 2014 toughened by fighting the good fight, proud of the stands we took, unwilling to buckle for political expediency but always ready to work with anyone who wants to work with us.