New York Yankees great Yogi Berra once famously observed, “When you come to a fork in the road—take it.”
And that is exactly what the conservative movement, as well as the Republican Party, is now forced to do. The only question following yet another election loss to Barack Obama is which one?
The very same people that have shoved Mitt McDoles down our throats for decades now will re-emerge from the ruling class to tell us that Mitt Romney was too conservative (I know, I laughed out loud, too), so we have to abandon whatever shred of conservatism actually still exists within the Republican Party leadership to win.
Yet we now know that is a pernicious lie.
Romney did everything the cynical Karl Rove wing of the party says Republicans have to do to win. He abandoned his base when he said the grassroots uprising standing up for Chick-fil-a was “not a part of my campaign,” and he joined the liberal dog pile on Todd Akin. He played it safe and didn’t offer any major tax or entitlement reform ideas to avoid the fiscal cliff out of fear being demagogued. He ran on platitudes and talked more about how bad Obama is rather than what plans for the future he had. He even became the first Republican presidential nominee to run pro-choice television ads, which aired in battleground states like Virginia, Ohio and Iowa. Romney won independents in key battleground states as well.
And he still lost.
What we need to do is make a list of everyone in the alleged “conservative media” that peddles this tripe, or went on Fox News guaranteeing a Romney victory and told us how skewed all the mainstream media polls were (when in the last three presidential elections they’ve been exactly right), and resolve never to trust these people again.
Frankly, we should’ve known better than to trust them in the first place. During the past two primary cycles didn’t we watch many of these same people tell us Mike Huckabee was a Christian socialist, Ron Paul was a nut-case, Rick Santorum was a pro-life statist, and Newt Gingrich opposed the very Reagan Revolution he was a foot soldier in?
You can agree or disagree with any of the men I just mentioned and I certainly have disagreements with all of them. But that’s not the point. The point is the very same people trashing and slandering non-establishment candidates in primaries are the very same people that tell conservatives we have to be team players (see that as stand for nothing). And yet they attack us like they would never attack liberals. Perhaps if Romney had gone after the president in the final two debates on Benghazi the way he went after Gingrich and Santorum in the primary, he wouldn’t have lost the election.
But now it’s time to move forward.
I recently spoke to a group of grassroots conservative activists at the Institute on the Constitution in Baltimore, and shared with them that I believe we are a movement in a generational transition. On one hand there is the Reagan generation, and my generation on the other.
The Reagan generation sees how much freedom and liberty has been lost since Reagan, and are trying to do whatever they can to hold on to whatever is left before it’s completely lost. The hope is that if we hold on long enough and defeat Democrats with any Republican, we can create another perfect storm that gave rise to Reagan in the first place and it will be “morning in America” again.
My generation doesn’t have that nostalgia for the Reagan era, because we were growing up and not really paying attention or weren’t even born at all. Now that we are paying attention, we don’t see the country in the context of what has been lost but rather how much ground needs to be gained. We are not seeing this purely in the context of the next election cycle. We’re seeing this in a generational cycle, which is why we oppose compromises on important issues like life and the debt ceiling. We don’t really care what the ruling class and its brigade of hand-wringers masquerading as pundits and pollsters think, because we’re the ones that will pick up the long-term tab for the financial, moral, and spiritual brokenness of the country.
We’re looking at the next 40 years, not just the next four.
Ironically, though we may not be a part of the Reagan generation, we have the same perspective Reagan had in 1976 when he said the Republican Party ought to stand for something other than becoming more like Democrats, and there should be no more “pale pastels” but “bold colors” instead.
Eventually my generation is going to get its chance to lead because we have time on our side. Nobody lives forever. When we do get our chance to lead, and it may be sooner rather than later, we need to learn the lessons of recent failures lest we fail our children and grandchildren.
This election provided by plenty of hard lessons, but also a useful road map of how to win the future:
1. The truth still sets us free.
Yes, the mainstream media favors liberals, but just giving our yin to their yang doesn’t produce truth—it just produces another echo chamber. I couldn’t believe how many conservatives I know and trust who really thought Romney was going to win, and win convincingly, despite the fact several polling models with a 96% accuracy rate in the past two presidential elections said otherwise. Our version of propaganda is no more true than their version of propaganda. We are dangerously close to becoming the magically thinking, virtual reality-living creatures we accuse the Democrat base of being. If we want to advance truth, we need to believe the truth ourselves—even when it’s inconvenient. And the truth is we are no longer the dominant view in the culture, and we have some work to do to change that.
2. Hypocrisy doesn’t sell.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen says the single most unpopular piece of legislation in recent American history was the TARP bailout of 2008. Yet we nominated a candidate who was for it. Good luck going to Toledo and telling Ohioans making $15/hour and think their job was saved by the auto industry bailout that they didn’t deserve a government handout, but Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs did.
3. Cast a vision.
After the Democrats lost an election in 2004 they probably shouldn’t have lost, the more principled-progressive wing of the party took over. The result was an anti-Bush liberal uprising in 2006 similar to the anti-Obama Tea Party uprising of 2010. Next, the new progressives defeated the more pragmatic Clintons head-to-head in a presidential primary. Obama ran for president promising his base he would move the ball down the field for them with their crown jewel legislation—Obamacare. He then went right back to that base in 2012 and worked the exact same get out the vote model that worked in 2008.
He embraced his base, even on social issues, both in the White House and at his convention. While we were scoffing at him for never moderating, Obama was energizing his base all along in preparation for a tough re-election. The progressives cast a vision that took more than one election cycle, followed it through, and won. They never detoured no matter what the facts were on the ground because they have a courage of their conviction their vision is what’s best for the country. They wanted to win to govern. The Republican ruling class wants to govern to win. The Democrats want to run a country. The Republican ruling class wants to run a party.
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