Our Big Challenge: Do We on the Right Still Trust the People?
My fellow conservatives . . . the state of our movement is not strong. Let’s face it. We’re depressed. We feel betrayed by the American electorate.
We feel betrayed by inner-city African-Americans, who can see the abysmal results of decades of Democratic governance all around them and who suffer the most from those failed policies, yet somehow keep sending the same crooks and losers back into office. Put aside Obama and these voters’ obvious pride of electing and reelecting the first African-American president; why is there no functioning alternative party in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Newark, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and barely one in New York or Los Angeles?
We feel betrayed that anyone, let alone a significant chunk of the electorate, could believe that our belief that this country should control its borders is driven by racism, xenophobia, and a hatred of immigrants.
We feel betrayed by young people, who also have suffered greatly from these failed policies. They’ve been told that a college education was the ticket to a good life, and they’ve taken on crushing debt for jobs that don’t exist and may never exist. Their professors failed to teach them the skills to thrive in a competitive job market and overcome adversity, and yet they haven’t yet seemed to turn on them in outrage. No, instead, they turn to government, enticed by the promise of free birth control.
Anyway, since the election, we’ve been marinating in this very grim story: we, a bunch of Americans who love freedom and believed that we can live happy lives if the government will just get out of the way, got swamped by a growing swarm of voters who believe that government — the very same government that had disappointed them and failed them time and again — will solve their problems.
So . . . what’s our story to come back?
I don’t quite mean our policies, although that’s part of it. What is our story? You get stories from Obama all the time. The story is pretty simple, deliberately so, and large chunks of it are hogwash. But it’s believable enough for enough people:
In the beginning, there was Bush, and Bush was bad. There was war, and it was bad; the war created the deficits, and so did Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. Because all the money went to tax cuts and wars, the government didn’t make necessary “investments” in “roads and bridges” and “green energy.” People couldn’t get health care. The oceans were rising.
Then we elected Obama, and it started getting better immediately! Okay, not everywhere, and maybe the progress and improvement was really hard to measure, but Obama inherited the worst crises of any president ever. Nobody could have generated better results than he did. The arc of history bent more toward justice, and better days are ahead, just you wait and see . . .
Now, you can come up with dozens of objections to those few sentences, but for the average Obama voter, that’s the gist of the state of the country from 2001 to today. It’s not all that different from your usual religious narrative, you have a fall of paradise (the election of Bush) the Devil (Bush), the messiah figure (Obama), the coming of a new kingdom and ultimate utopia. The purpose of the believer is to continue to believe in the redeeming messiah figure in the face of skepticism and doubt, because belief in him makes you one of the special and enlightened ones, and so on.
So . . . keeping in mind that we want to avoid all the creepy messianic vibes . . . what’s our story?
It’s going to be written by minds wiser than me, but I think we all know some of the key elements:
The American people have the tools they need to succeed and thrive. Now, when you look around you and see Snooki and the marching phalanx of idiotic reality stars, you may begin to wonder about this. But a core element of a philosophy built around individual rights is the notion that the vast majority of individuals are doing just fine as they are. Grown adults don’t need some sort of robed master or political or cultural elite to tell us what to do, how to think, how to live. If we do seek out teachers, mentors, wise men and women to help us make better decisions, it is best to find them outside of the coercive and inherently corrupting power of the state. We don’t need some massive social engineering or reeducation to cure us of backwards ways. In fact . . .
We are right to be wary of the powerful, because most of the folks who are supposed to be better than us, smarter than us, more wise than us, and more virtuous than us have failed us miserably. Where shall we start, the Wall Street Wizards who thought it was a good idea to start making six-figure loans to just about anybody, wrecking the old-fashioned virtue of credit? How about the government that takes in record tax revenue and still has trouble keeping this year’s deficit below $900 billion? The media botches stories regularly, our political leaders get caught in scandals like clockwork, epic mismanagement turns beautiful parts of the country like California into places nobody wants to live, or can afford to live . . .
We must deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. While diplomacy will always have a role in our foreign policy, the world is always going to have hostile states and hostile forces, who can only be deterred through military force. Foreign populations do not care if our leader lived abroad as a child, nor do they oppose us because our leader is too much like a cowboy. No amount of self-proclaimed “empathy” or “smart diplomacy” can overrule geopolitical realities. If we intervene in the world’s trouble spots, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, foreign leaders will demonize us and blame us for everything that goes wrong. If we do not intervene, horrific bloodshed on a grand scale follows (see Syria). Perhaps we need some variation of “speak softly, and carry a big stick.”
Right now, there’s a conundrum at the heart of the conservative movement. Our entire philosophy is about trusting the people, in faith that they know what’s best for themselves, can spend their own money more wisely than the government can, and find the solutions that work best for their communities . . . and right now, we don’t really trust the people.