If the left ever gets bold enough to round up their opponents on the right and send us to re-education camp, they won’t need to spend much money on guards. Conservatives will be so busy fighting among ourselves for the flag of true conservatism that we won’t have much time to plan and execute an escape.
Discussions about degrees of conservative purity are always lively, and now the rise of Donald Trump has set off the age-old principles-versus-pragmatism debate in earnest. Should we face reality and unite behind a candidate who is not one of us but who can stop Hillary Clinton? Or should conservatives try the Phoenix Strategy: Sit out 2016, let the GOP crash and burn, and then rise phoenix-like from the ashes to capture the GOP and dethrone Hillary in 2020?
As conservatives wrestle with the principles-versus-pragmatism question, we can be sure of two hard realities, and neither of them bodes well for a conservative revival in 2020.
First, as things stand now, those of us on the right will be no further along in solving the principles-versus-pragmatism dilemma in 2020 than we are now. The problem is not with the principles but the practice. It is not difficult to get conservatives to agree to principles such as those drafted by the Young Americans for Freedom in the Sharon Statement of 1960. Belief in a transcendent moral order as the basis for liberty, the superiority of free-market economics, limited government constrained by the Constitution, and opposition to totalitarian systems such as communism are central to the conservative worldview.
The problem for conservatives occurs when we have to put those principles into practice within the constraints of practical politics. Conservatives have principles, but we do not have a long-term strategy comparable to the left’s “long march through the institutions.” The strategy of Cultural Marxism drove leftist ideas into our cultural institutions over several decades, and the success of that strategy is evident to any conservative who browses through a child’s history textbook, watches television, or listens to the rhetoric coming out of the DNC.
Because of their long-march strategy, the far left was able to put their principles into practice incrementally. Even when they appeared to compromise their radical principles, they were actually advancing in piecemeal fashion toward their goal of a Marxist America. The left mastered the art of strategic compromise. Each compromise positioned the left for future gains. Without a strategy that creates a long-term context for short-term tactics, conservatives cannot differentiate between selling out our principles on the one hand and gaining a little ground toward our long-term goal on the other.
The problem with the Phoenix Strategy, or even starting a third party to represent conservatives, is that we will still have to face the principles-versus-pragmatism question. Until conservatives develop a long-term strategy comparable to the left’s long march, the answers won’t be any clearer in 2020 than they are now.
Short-term, how do we stall the left’s advance? Which areas, such as protecting freedom of speech or countering the acceptance of socialism, are must-wins now? Longer-term, how do we take our principles and values beyond our talk-radio base, into our cultural institutions, and into the culture at large? What is our long-term strategy to ensure that school children understand and value the things that make America exceptional? What is our strategy to use news and entertainment to foster our narrative about America and to undermine the left’s narrative?
The left had a strategy that allowed them to gain ground in every cultural institution until they finally could put a radical leftist in the White House who did not have to hide his radical agenda. And now they are positioned for the final phase of their assault in 2016.
And that brings us to the second reality for conservatives: Time is not on our side. The left has done tremendous damage to the Republic in the last eight years. Hillary Clinton would not only bring her cloud of corruption and criminality to the White House, but also she would continue Obama’s agenda of stacking the courts and the bureaucracy with left wing activists. By 2020, the far left’s agenda would be four years further along, and conservatives do not have a strong record of taking back ground that the left has seized.
Besides, by 2020, Clinton and her appointees will have opened our elections to millions of illegal aliens by executive, administrative, or judicial fiat. Even the most ideal conservative candidate will be swamped by millions of new left wing voters. America will effectively become a one-party country ruled by far-left Democrats.
If Trump promotes a more business-friendly environment, puts Americans back to work, takes border security seriously, and puts the safety of Americans ahead of political correctness, then conservatives can buy time to finally develop a strategy that addresses our declining culture. Things won’t be ideal if conservatives help to elect Trump, but we can stall the left’s advance.
There’s too much at stake to let Hillary Clinton get even a visitor’s pass to the White House, let alone the keys.