If you ask ten different conservatives to rank the most important issues to them, you’ll likely get at least ten different responses. The issues named at least once by your small sampling would probably include some variation of abortion, tax policy, deregulation, gun rights, judicial activism and immigration, among others. Each issue is important in its own right, of course, and each will have its defenders happy to explain why their top ranked choice is the most critical issue to the future of our country. And if you listen to the case for any one absent the others, none would be without a point.
Abortion opponents run the gamut from restrictionists to outright abolitionists, and they are arguably the most passionate ideologues on the right side of the political spectrum. In fact, on ‘our side,’ at least in terms of spunk and passion, I would put an abortion abolitionist up against any rainbow-flag wielding leftist demonstrator, any day of the week. They’re not violent like Antifa, but whether it’s the halls of some State House or in front of literally every abortion clinic in America, they’re not afraid to get out there and loudly and proudly protest what they see as America’s greatest sin. And, unlike Antifa, they’re also not afraid to show their faces. They want to ‘End Abortion Now,’ as in right now, and the logic they use - the fact that our country legally murders millions of its own babies every year and a righteous God probably has a problem with that - is tough to argue with. There’s certainly a solid argument for putting abortion at the top of the list.
Tax policy and deregulation are pretty similar issues, insofar as both are inexorably linked to whether we have a strong, churning economy or whether leftists like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren manage to turn us into some sort of Venezuela-like hellscape. It’s not that the rich shouldn’t pay taxes, or that corporations shouldn’t be stopped from remaking America into a polluted, smog-infested, apocalyptic wasteland. However, when the left takes the pendulum too far - as they do on every issue - too much taxation and too much regulation tend to stifle economic growth to levels that could cause suffering on a mass scale. In other words, the point for economic policy being at the top of the list is a mighty strong one indeed.
Gun rights are also a major issue to conservatives, and it’s not just because of the fact that so many proposed laws would make de facto criminals out of so many of us. More ‘reasonable’ sounding leftists say they’d never interfere with the longstanding tradition of hunting in America, but people own weapons for a variety of reasons, and the right to hunt is actually the least of most of our concerns. Given their skepticism of tyrannical governments (you know, because they’d just won a war against a tyrannical government) it’s obvious that the founders intended the Second Amendment to go much further than simply ‘allowing’ American families to collect the occasional wild game to live on, which would have been a given anyway considering that most American families relied on it for at least a portion of their sustenance. No, they meant it as a way to ensure citizens the right to self-defense both against individual wrongdoers and as a safeguard against governmental tyranny. Take it all away, and it’s only a matter of time before the jackboots come calling. So yeah, it’s pretty important and it would be hard to blame anyone for putting gun rights at the top of the list.
Judicial activism is the one issue that unites anyone who was anywhere right-of-center before President Trump stormed onto the political landscape. It’s absolutely bonkers, and it needs to end. Whether you’re a MAGA-hat-wearing Deplorable or a Never-Trump squish, you probably love the fact that, despite what you may or may not like about the president, he’s at least making the American judiciary great again - into the founders’ original vision of interpreting, rather than making, Constitutional law. And when there are liberal tears involved, as when Kavanaugh was confirmed, so much the better. Indeed, there’s definitely an argument for putting the abolition of judicial activism at the top of the list.
Finally, there’s immigration, and I’m going to go ahead and brush aside all the arguments above - at least insofar as they serve to place those issues at the number one slot - and slide this issue right up there at the top, heads and shoulders above the rest. Abortion, tax policy, deregulation, gun rights, judicial activism … all are critical to maintaining the United States as the type of place where the most people can have the highest quality of life. But if we allow Democrats to succeed in filling our country with people predisposed to vote for big government, over time and election cycles it simply won’t be possible to win on any other issue. In other words - if we lose the immigration battle, we lose the war, for good.
Follow Scott on Twitter @SKMorefield