Artur Davis on the Incomplete Conservative Agenda

Recently, Artur Davis, the education reform advocate and former Democratic congressman who endorsed Mitt Romney earlier this year, gave a speech at the Accuracy in Media conference that made an important point very effectively:

If the only thing we do is talk to each other, we might convince ourselves that the sole and extent of our mission is protecting freedom.  If the only thing we do is talk to each other, we might convince ourselves that the opportunity, prosperity, civil society part doesn’t matter as much.  You know why?  Because freedom has worked very well for all of us.  It’s worked well for most of us in this room, and for most people who will find this online to watch it.

But there happen to be a group of Americans, ladies and gentlemen, many of whom are very conservative, many of whom are people of faith, many of whom are people of an incredible industrious work ethic—yes, they value their freedom enormously, but they got up this morning free, and didn’t have a job to return to.  They got up this morning free, and see the factories shuttered in their communities.  They got up this morning free, and sat with their children around the table before they went off to school, and it occurred to them that in a few years, that child will need to be in college somewhere if he has, she has, a chance to compete and be successful and they wondered how they’re going to afford it.  They’re free but anxious.  They can be ours, but they have to hear from us on the prosperity and opportunity side.

In my view, Davis has already made an important contribution to conservative discourse, and I hope that he continues to play a prominent role.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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