Rightward, How?
Making the most of the Masschusetts miracle.


How should conservatives make use of the opportunity presented by the “Massachusetts miracle”? We asked a few politics experts on the right.

The Massachusetts Miracle is first and foremost an opportunity to put the Democrats on defense in policy debates. In other words, Obama isn’t the only one who has to pivot now. Conservatives successfully played defense for the past year, and now need to go on offense with a coherent limited-government agenda for addressing real problems.

Most immediately, conservatives need to communicate clearly a short list of items that would make up a really desirable health-care reform, maybe starting with permitting the purchase of health insurance across state lines. If necessary, they can propose initially that this be available only for low-income or currently uninsured people. More ambitiously, conservatives need to hammer out and communicate a similar list of ways to let the private sector get its recovery underway.

The bad news: These sorts of things have to come from members of Congress, and conservatives have learned the hard way to expect them to be conservative only up to a point.

– Gerard Alexander is a professor of politics at the University of Virginia.

Conservatives might do well to counter two antithetical reactions to the Massachusetts vote.

One, of course, is the Left’s reinvention of the voters’ outrage as generic anger aimed at all incumbents and the residual discontent from the Bush years. That spin is ludicrous given the prominence of Obamacare in the populist crosshairs and the Left’s smears against grassroots dissidents.

The second problematic reaction attributes the rising unease to some sort of narrow, doctrinaire Republican litmus test. Scott Brown is not a card-carrying conservative; he embodies the manifestation of anger perfectly for the particular liberal landscape of Massachusetts. Conservatives should articulate just four or five inclusive themes that represent opposition to the present Obama attempt to transform America and yet do not get bogged down in whether one is or is not acceptable on the basis of a particular social issue.

I think most understand what the 2009–2010 furor was about, and what its remedies are: Reform candidates should agree to balance budgets; oppose earmarks and the current vote-buying sleaze; shrink government; quit burdening the entrepreneurial classes with new regulations, higher taxes, and constant hostile rhetoric; and promote a strong national defense and homeland security that put the focus explicitly on radical Islamic terrorism as acts of war rather than criminal activity.

The core message should serve as a unifier for a new generation of conservative reformers, without getting tangled up in a long laundry list of other issues, or in a Pavlovian effort to kick out all incumbents.

– NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.


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