Two-thousand and six certainly wasn’t the best year for conservatives. But with a new year brings hope — and so National Review Online asked a group of conservatives to highlight that which we can be optimistic about going into 2007.
Conservatives can look forward to three things in 2007 that haven’t received enough attention:
First, whether Democrats understand it — much less like it — or not, the American people will now hold them partly responsible for Iraq policy. This is as it should be, since congressional majorities bestow responsibility. But this will highlight the deep divisions that exist among Democrats over foreign policy, divisions that go much deeper than just Iraq.
Second, conservatives get to watch the Democrats try to paint the Republicans as a rump Southern party that’s out of step with the rest of the country. But it was the Democrats themselves who lopped off the only Southerner in the top tier of 2008 GOP presidential candidates, Senator George Allen. All the currently leading GOP candidates are emphatically non-Southern and well-positioned to reach out to voters in the West, Midwest, and even Northeast.
And third, conservatives should appreciate a sea-change that the 2006 elections revealed in American politics. Today, many Democrats are clearly afraid that their new officeholders will screw up their recent victories, which is why they are treading so cautiously. This shows that many liberals have abandoned the sense of entitlement to govern that characterized them for so long. That is the result of decades of legitimizing of conservative ideas, leaders, and policies. Since most conservatives don’t have a sense of entitlement either, we’re seeing what amounts to the most level political playing-field that modern conservatives have ever seen.
– Gerard Alexander is a professor of politics at the University of Virginia and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Conservatives have much to look forward to in 2007, including:
Enjoying the spectacle of liberal congressional Democrats struggling to reconcile what they want to do (impeach George Bush, raise taxes, get out of Iraq, fling wide the gates to all immigrants) with what the public wants them to do.
Being courted by McCain, Romney, Giuliani, and every other presidential hopeful, demonstrating that conservatives still hold the balance of power in the Republican party.
Giving time and thought to the writing of a conservative platform for 2008 with planks on Social Security, health care, welfare reform, immigration, a prudent foreign policy, and free trade.
Remembering that our strength lies in the power of our ideas, not the outcome of a particular election.
Dipping into Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, F. A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, Whittaker Chambers, James Burnham, and a hundred other thinkers on whom the conservative movement rests securely.
– Lee Edwards is Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought at the Heritage Foundation.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling
Although the Republican party was soundly defeated in November, its principles were not. Clearly the war in Iraq is unpopular and no doubt was a detriment to Republican candidates across America. Yet Iraq was just one of many factors that created a negative national political environment for the GOP. Republicans lost the majority because as a party, we lost our conservative brand. Voters didn’t lose faith in our core principles — they lost faith in our commitment to them.
Yet through difficult defeat comes great opportunity. While we may have substantially lost the ability to set the congressional agenda, Republicans will serve as the party of loyal opposition — offering thoughtful conservative policy alternatives to reignite the spirit of Americans in search of true political leadership. That does not mean that we will become the cynical party of “No.” Instead, we will once again dedicate ourselves to being the party of ideas — the party that not only talks but acts. Once we demonstrate to the American people that we embrace the core conservative principles of a balanced budget, limited, accountable government, and traditional values, our future is bright. This year the Republican Study Committee will help lead the way by applying these principles to the challenges faced by American families in the 21st century.
– Congressman Jeb Hensarling, representing the 5th district of Texas, is chairman of the Republican Study Committee.
Conservatism, of course, will never be the political disposition of a majority of Americans. Conservative objectives, however, will from time to time find the support of such a majority; the success of the conservative movement depends in large part on leaders taking advantage of such moments.
Judicial activism has given conservatives an opportunity to express conservative positions in populist terms. Judges have become accustomed to treating their rulings as occasions for making into law their own thoughts on social policy, tax rates, and foreign affairs. Conservatives object to these rulings as offenses against the separation of powers committed for the sake of liberal ends; the American people resent these rulings as diktats from unelected and condescending judges. Take, for instance, the radical redefinition of marriage; or the use of international law as precedent; or the allowance of the government to take private property so as to give it to another private entity; or the bestowal of sundry rights on terrorists — decisions such as these occasion widespread discontent among Americans in general, not only among conservatives.
Liberals have decided to implement their political objectives by means of the courts. It is a condescending and undemocratic strategy, and it is one that conservatives can continue to use to their advantage, pointing out that such arrogance is born of a liberalism that disdains the views of the average American. If our leaders are up to that challenge, that’s something we can all look forward to.
– Rick Santorum is the outgoing junior Republican senator from Pennsylvania.
We look forward in 2007 to the resurgence of the conservative movement separate from the George W. Bush administration. As Rush Limbaugh said on November 8, the 2006 election “liberated” us from having to defend non-conservative policies.
The revitalization of the conservative movement started with the vetoing of the unqualified Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court, followed by the squashing of the Dubai ports deal because we don’t want our vital infrastructure to be controlled by foreigners.
Then, the conservative movement faced off against Bush on immigration: 88 percent of House Republicans voted for the Sensenbrenner border-security-only bill; 58 percent of Senate Republicans voted against the Kennedy-McCain-Bush amnesty/guest-worker bill; and the House refused to appoint conferees even to consider the Senate bill. Winning candidates in 2006, both Democrat and Republican, took a very hard line on border security and illegal aliens. Arizona overwhelmingly passed three amendments to limit taxpayer benefits to illegal aliens plus an English language amendment.
Pro-family conservatives should reassert the integrity of their principled movement, rejecting all financial temptations to be the Bush party or the party of Big Business. Conservatives should re-claim their majority in the Republican party by outnumbering and outsmarting the false prophets of RINO politics, nation-building utopians, and globalism economics.
– Phyllis Schlafly is the founder and president of Eagle Forum.