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Facing Backward, Facing Forward

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
The pagan god Janus has two faces, and that's a good thing. He can look to the future and reflect on the past, all at the same time. As ancient gods go, Janus is good at transitions. January, named for Janus, is not only a dreary month to get past as quickly as possible, but it's a time for useful reflection and resolve.

Now that we're no longer teetering on the fiscal cliff, President Obama and his administration are busy with anticipation of parades, balls and searches for dance partners at the inauguration of Obama II, and the Republicans can use the down time to face forward in search of a role, to consider the crucial question of, "Where do we go from here?" What is the future of conservatism, and how do we get there from here?

On the bright side, there are several new stars in the conservative firmament. Some of the names are already familiar: Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the newly (de)minted Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and a promising rank of governors -- Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, Nikki Haley in South Carolina, Susana Martinez in New Mexico and Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Depending on whether conservatives have forgiven him for his indiscriminate bear hugs (think of the president), Gov. Chris Christie is still available in New Jersey.

None suffer the one-note business biography of Mitt Romney, or the reluctance of the summer soldiers who declined to run last time. They left the Republican primary field to leftovers from the taxi squad. Creative thinking, not ideology, must be the menu specials over the next four years.

Politics, like the Grandfather clock, marks time with a pendulum, swinging from right to left and back again, and it's a good thing. Singles and the young voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in November, but there's a cure for the callow judgment of youth. The young will grow older, marry, beget children and inevitably trade attitude for considered judgment. Obama deepened the divisions among us with his full-throated attacks on the "rich," reprising rhetoric of his community-organizing days, making villains of those whose sin was working too hard and accumulating too much.


We've mortgaged our children's futures to China, and maybe the children who won't be children forever will decide once they've grown into maturity that they must do something about the debts incurred. The emotional appeals to soak the rich that worked this time will ring hollow in their ears when the young become not so young, as they learn the hard way that runaway entitlements perpetuate runaway debt that one day, one way or the other, must be repaid.

Ambition and "making it" has always been a worthy American goal in a country founded and fueled by immigrant drive and energy. Having seen the disaster of the campaign's anti-immigrant rhetoric, conservatives should awake to the possibilities of immigrant power.

Borders must be closed to illegal immigration, and Hispanics already here enabled and encouraged to learn the English language and follow the example of immigrants before them, who came to assimilate -- to take their place in the melting pot and reject hyphenated Americanism. The rewards of ambition and hard work are great, and nowhere greater than in America.

Marco Rubio, speaking to Republicans last summer at their convention in Tampa, recalled that his Cuban grandfather, puffing a cigar and watching an earlier Republican convention play out on the television screen, said he wanted his grandson to achieve what he couldn't. This was the immigrant dream.

Accepting the Jack Kemp Foundation Leadership Award a month later, the senator stressed again the dignity of his father's hard work as a bartender and the menial work of other immigrants in the kitchens, and on the streets and the lawns across America. Mitt Romney's ugly term, "self-deportation," was easily exploited by Democrats in their campaign of "us against them," extended to the slur against "aging white men" and the myth of whites as over the hill, out of touch and superfluous in a country becoming ever multi-ethnic.


Obama skillfully employed and exploited what the historian Victor Hansen Davis calls the image of the "shrinking, geriatric white male plutocratic establishment forced to give way to the new age of the diverse 'other.'" Asians, blacks, Latinos, gays and women, many of them affluent enough to be the rich the Democrats promised to soak, couldn't see their own interests at stake.

Janus was the god of beginnings, of new undertakings, for writing on a clean slate. In real life, the slate is never blank, but we can learn from looking back at what went wrong -- and shaping the future to get it right.

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