The Corner

What It Takes

Many of us have asked a question for many years, and especially in the last few years. It goes something like this: “How can conservatives win elections against Santa Claus, or Robin Hood? Against candidates offering free stuff? Against candidates who blame people’s problems on the greedy rich, keepin’ ’em down?” In other words, how do you beat the socialists?

WFB, on Firing Line and elsewhere, asked this question endlessly. And I have asked it recently of such worthies as Paul Ryan, Hernando de Soto, and Michael Gove. Today in Impromptus, I feature Gove on the question (and other questions). Here is a taste of his answer:

“Tocqueville pointed out — though he wasn’t the first — that, in a democratic system, there’s always a tendency to gravitate to the guy who offers free stuff, or who is prepared to pander to achieve power. But I have more faith in human nature, in that people do want to think better of themselves, people do want to take control of their own lives and make an enterprise of their own existence. People do recognize that being dependent on others is debilitating, and people also have a low tolerance for lead-swingers and others who seem to be taking advantage of their own hard work.”

(“Lead-swinger” is a British term for “idler,” “slacker.”)

“I think the way to win the argument, however, is not just to rely on people’s desire to improve their own lives, and their impatience with those who are not being similarly strenuous, but to make the point that conservative ideas are the best way of achieving the sorts of goals that progressives profess to believe in.”

Yes, Gove is very good at that. And there are some here in the good ol’ U.S.A. who are good at it, too. May they run for office with clarity, subtlety (though not in the serpent sense), and boldness.

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