The debate has been resolved: President Obama is not a rudderless perpetual campaigner pushed to an unpalatable policy agenda. No, he is an unrelenting liberal (okay, “progressive”) warrior. Moreover, it is clear that political victory is even more important than policy every time.
That leaves conservatives three options: (1) oppose at every turn, (2) roll over at every turn, or (3) prepare for guerrilla warfare on behalf of the U.S. taxpayer.
Strategy (1) is a loser. Every move by the president since November 7, 2012, has been part of a plan to paint conservatives in general and Republicans in particular as a selfish, recalcitrant bloc out of touch with the woes afflicting the middle class.
Worse, strategy (1) leads to a loss of the House and thereby makes strategy (2) inevitable. And strategy (2) is a real loser. The president’s agenda is misguided, and increasingly harmful to America’s future. No honorable conservative should have her fingerprints on it.
That leaves strategy (3), which is messy, difficult to characterize, impossible to forecast, and so much less satisfying than a genuine agenda for national security and personal and economic freedom. But as debts mount, growth stagnates, and federal intrusion increases, there will be moments not only to draw a contrast with the president but to serve the future as well.
— Douglas Holtz-Eakin is president of American Action Forum.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ
There was something appropriate about the president and vice president taking their oaths privately in their government-sponsored residences on Sunday, January 20. It would have been something if that were the entire public inauguration, then to work.
I’m saying that not just because I’m disappointed he’s president for another four years, which, of course, I am. Nor only because Washington needs to have a renewed attitude about stewardship, an attitude that galas don’t signal. It’s also because politics isn’t where things have most radically changed. Politics isn’t actually the front line or starting point on most matters that fundamentally affect our lives. As Washington makes it harder for civil society to thrive, civil society is where we need to focus our attention and rebuild. It is all the more important as the challenges increase. We’re not going to fight for what we no longer value. The next time you hear yourself complaining about Washington, remember who it is whom Washington represents.
If we don’t rebuild our homes, our community, our culture, don’t expect to be liking Washington anytime soon.
“Hope” doesn’t emanate from politics. And “change” starts at home.
So in a way I’m grateful for Inauguration Day today: Because it’s a reminder about priorities. It’s a reminder about fundamentals. When we start getting them in order, maybe we’ll have a Washington that leans toward freedom again. Tyrannical flourishes say less about the leaders in a republic than about the people who send them to office, and return them there.
As for Washington these next four years: If you happen to pay attention and notice someone getting that stewardship thing right and trying, despite the circumstances, consider saying “Thank you” instead of demanding the impossible.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.
JOHN J. PITNEY JR.
On Inauguration Day, all eyes are on Washington, but the real action is elsewhere.
In 2012, the Obama campaign enjoyed a technological edge over the Romney campaign. The newest analytical techniques served mostly to support the oldest political activity: personal contact. The president’s volunteers simply had a lot more face-to-face talks with voters, which constitute the most effective way of getting people to cast ballots. That difference padded his modest popular-vote margin and tipped some close states into his column.
In recent weeks, Republicans and conservatives have talked about their efforts to improve their ability to gather and analyze voter data. That’s fine, but it’s even more important to strengthen the presence of Republicans and conservatives at the neighborhood level. And to do that, they need to be good neighbors. In a proposal reminiscent of the GOP’s old “Working Partners” program, Robb Austin has written that they should take part in community volunteer activities such as after-school programs. The aim, he says, “is not to talk or promote politics year-round but to invest the time necessary to connect and develop personal relationships.”
As Jack Kemp used to say, people don’t care how much you know until they know that you care.
— John J. Pitney Jr. is Roy P. Crocker professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College.