By now you’ve probably seen the TV specials and glossy magazines reviewing major highlights of the past year. There are still a few days left before we close the books on 2012 (and action appears likely on the fiscal cliff). But in the meantime, let’s recap some of the good news (and bad) that conservatives faced over the past 12 months.
Let’s begin with the disappointments:
Campaign of Condescension
The election results disappointed many conservatives. Even more disappointing than the outcome was the accompanying campaign of condescension.
Americans weren’t treated as self-governing citizens. Women were portrayed as birth control pill-popping dependants looking for the next handout. The President insisted that our achievements have nothing to do with our own initiative, talents, or hard work. “You didn’t build that,” government programs did. The Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte reminded us that government is the one thing we all belong to.
Obamacare Remains Intact (If Unworkable)
Conservatives were understandably giddy when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case against the unpopular, unworkable, unconstitutional health-care law. Obamacare is an unprecedented expansion of the federal government’s power. It requires citizens to purchase a product (which the government will define) or face a penalty. Surely the court would overturn this monstrosity.
Wrong. The Supreme Court held the individual mandate to be constitutional under Congress’s taxing power (never mind that Congress never called the mandate a tax or that this “tax” sits uneasily within the history of text of the Constitution). The court recognized some limits on Congress’s commerce power and chastised the federal government’s attempt to strong-arm the states with Medicaid, but these were small victories compared to the disappointment of the court’s not striking down Obamacare in its entirety.
Reign of an Imperial Presidency
Imperialism was back in a big way in 2012. President Obama acted unconstitutionally in January by giving “recess appointments” to four officials who were subject to Senate confirmation even though the Senate wasn’t in recess. By so doing, the President denied the Senate (and therefore the American people) its constitutional duty to offer advice and consent in confirmation.
Obama spent the rest of the year routinely ignoring or bypassing Congress. If he did not like the laws, he refused to enforce them or used the regulatory process to make up new laws. For example, because he objected to federal immigration laws, Obama decided to apply those laws selectively, and actively prevented states, including Arizona, from enforcing those laws themselves.
Let’s also not forget that the Department of Justice not only refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, but it also wouldn’t deign to defend it from legal challenge. And even though the Senate rejected the President’s cap-and-trade plan, his Environmental Protection Agency classified carbon dioxide as a pollutant so that it could regulate it under the Clean Air Act.
That’s enough bad news for one year. Now let’s get to the high points:
States Proved that Conservative Policies Work
In 2012, low taxes and effective government worked. Texas boasts low taxes and reasonable regulations. As a result, it enjoys low unemployment and a thriving economy. The Lone Star State’s success is drawing successful citizens from struggling states. Texas’s population increased by 20 percent over the past 10 years. In 2012, Texas had four new congressional seats to fill.
Michigan had one less congressional seat in 2012. It recently passed right-to-work legislation, which has succeeded in other states such as Indiana. As a result of the legislation, Michigan may reverse its downward trend in the years to come. In fact, General Motors (GM) Ontario announced plans to move a Camaro factory to the state.
New Generation of Conservative Leadership
Conservatives made real gains in 2012, particular in state leadership. In 2013, there will be 30 Republican governors. Meanwhile, the House retains many strong conservatives, including vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who returns as chairman of the House Budget Committee. This past month, he and Senator Marco Rubio (R–FL) talked about ways to promote opportunity, reduce poverty, and get the country back on track at the Kemp Foundation Leadership Award Dinner.
Speaking of Senators, Ted Cruz (R) was recently elected in Texas. He will join the strong bench of principled conservatives in the Senate, joining Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey (R–PA), Rand Paul (R–KY), and Mike Lee (R–UT). As Senator Jim DeMint (R–SC) moves into his new role as president of The Heritage Foundation, his departure enables the rise of another conservative Senator—current Representative Tim Scott (R–SC).
Let’s Not Forget the Constitution
Few things are able to celebrate a 225th birthday, but our Constitution did in 2012. No other country’s constitution has survived this long.
More importantly, the Constitution remains the standard for elected officials and for the people. It tells Congress, the Executive, the Courts, and the states what they can and cannot do. It reminds the people of their rights and gives them recourse to challenge and if need be fire their elected officials.
In fact, the constitutionally questionable actions of the federal government renewed interest in studying the document this year, with the help of new resources. In April, Heritage launched ConstitutionOnline.com, the one-of-a-kind resource that brings together over 100 legal experts to explain the original meaning and significant legal interpretation of every clause in the Constitution. Hillsdale College also released The Constitution Reader, including key topics in American government, debates, and a time line of American constitutional history.
Now Is Not the Time to Surrender
This wasn’t an easy year. 2013 may also be difficult, but conservatives are blessed with the opportunity to stand for something—for liberty, rights, and opportunity. And these are things worth fighting for. Don’t let anyone—not even yourself—tell you that America’s best days are behind her or that the American spirit has been vanquished. We’ve seen it triumph too often in our lives to let one tough year cause us to stop believing in it now.