By: Brian Sikma
If you listen to the right combination of pundits and talking heads, you can be forgiven for concluding that the conservative movement is a thing of the past. As a political force it is a dinosaur outsmarted by the concepts that brought us the election of Senator Barack Obama as our next president. Americans are tired of the economic, national security, and social policies that flow from a conservative governing philosophy. They are ready for a change from these policies and they emphatically rejected these ideas at the ballot box. At least that is how the thinking goes.
In one of his more memorable lines, the great American wit Mark Twain declared “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” when he responded to the New York Journal’s premature publication of his obituary. Reports of the death of the conservative movement are greatly exaggerated. Conservatism is alive and well and thriving despite electoral setbacks that hit Republicans harder than the unhappy election results of 2006.
Conservatism as a philosophy of government is not dead because the American people still refuse to embrace liberal values. Even as the 2008 election unfolded, a mere 22% of Americans described themselves as “liberal.” The dichotomy between this self-described aversion to liberalism and the election of the most liberal, major party presidential candidate in history as well as very liberal majorities in Congress can be explained this way: voters were tired of Republicans’ failure to govern according to their stated principles.
The American people are a generally forgiving electorate. They do not demand that their leaders agree with them on every issue, but they do require that their leaders agree with them on key issues and they do demand that their leaders be honest. A politician can win reelection even if he or she casts a couple of bad votes. But if politician casts a series of votes that go against the values of his or her constituents, or somehow fails the trust of voters, they will be rejected at the next election. This is a good thing, even if Republicans don’t like how it impacted them in November.
Conservatism will survive into the future. The question is will a political party and its leaders will step up and embrace its core values? I don’t believe that we can expect the Democrat Party, with all of its ties to the far left, to be the party of conservatism. If Republicans take up the cause of conservatism, if Republicans make the conservative values of lower taxes, limited regulations, smaller government, stronger national defense, protection of unborn life, preservation of traditional marriage, and a respect for liberty coupled with a respect for ordered society, their values, they will make a strong comeback.
For Republicans, the recipe for victory is simple: believe in conservative principles and then stand up for those principles. The American people will stand with you because the American people are a center-right people and they are simply waiting for leadership that stands where they stand.