A New Year’s Resolution for Conservatives
David Azerrad /
‘Tis the season for hope—though you couldn’t tell from listening to conservatives. Two months after the election, the mood remains grim among many on the right.
It’s not just that the American people have re-elected one of the most liberal presidents ever, or that the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate in Obamacare. The economy remains stuck in first gear; our battered culture of marriage, work, and self-government seems to grow weaker by the year; our taxes are going up; and we are hurtling into the fiscal abyss of even more debt.
We are all doomed, they say in a dejected tone, and remind us that it’s always darkest just before it goes pitch black.
Given the stakes—namely the future of this great country—and the enormity of the challenges confronting us, now is no time to give up. This year we only offer a single resolution for conservatives:
Rather than obsessively focus on all that ails the country, take a minute instead to reflect on all that we have at our disposal to push back against the left, preserve what we’ve achieved over the years—remember the 91 percent tax marginal rate from 50 years ago?—and continue to defend the dream by expanding opportunity for all Americans.
When you think about it, there is nothing special about our current situation: Big government is the norm practically everywhere in the West. As are reckless spending, bankrupt entitlements, intractable poverty, or any other of the myriad problems that could lead you to despair.
What sets the U.S. apart from all the other countries that have contracted the disease of big government is that it is the only country where a principled, cogent alternative to big government exists and commands both broad popular and institutional support.
Conservatives in the U.S. can draw from a rich tradition of homegrown conservative thinking and statesmanship. In our efforts to revive constitutionalism, we need not develop a theory of limited government from scratch or try to import one from some distant land. We can simply follow in the footsteps of Washington, Publius, Lincoln, Coolidge, Buckley, and Reagan.
What’s more, conservative ideas still resonate with wide segments of the American population. There are an awful lot of people in this country who still get it when it comes to limited government, a strong national defense, free markets, and a vibrant civil society. These folks not only “cling” to their guns and religion—they cling to their Constitution and capitalism, too.
Most encouraging of all is the extraordinary number of organizations, civic associations, and media outlets devoted to promulgating and advancing conservative ideas.
We not only have D.C.-based national think tanks, like Heritage or the American Enterprise Institute; we have at least one free-market think tank in each of the 50 states and countless others devoted to everything from restoring “the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life” to shaking up higher education.
We not only have Fox News—home to the top 10 cable news shows in the country—AM talk radio, and the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal, The Examiner and The Washington Times, but also more excellent magazines that anybody could possibly read; a vibrant blogosphere and online press, including a new investigative journalism newspaper; and many of the top columnists in the country, including some who are perched at The New York Times and The Washington Post.
We not only have major conservative book publishers like Regnery, Encounter, and ISI, but also conservative imprints with all the major book publishers. We not only have local and state Tea Party groups, but also national and state government watchdog groups. We not only have Federalist Society chapters in law schools across the country, but also the Benjamin Rush Society for medical schools and now even an Adam Smith Society for business schools.
Just pick an issue, and you’ll easily find 10 conservative groups devoted to it. Nowhere else in the world will you find such a vibrant, robust, and diverse conservative movement with so many different avenues for advancing conservative ideas.
And thanks to federalism, conservatives can make some real progress at the state level—witness the string of right-to-work and school choice victories—even when our prospects at the national level remain dimmer for the time being. As Heritage President Ed Feulner likes to say: “In Washington, there are no permanent victories or permanent defeats.”
With so many good reasons to keep fighting, how could we even contemplate calling it quits? This new year, let’s put all of our energy into preserving and advancing freedom.