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My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.
|Just as there are many pathologies involved in the current state of decline of America, so, too, there must be many different approaches to remedy the situation.|
I. We--conservatives, Republicans, whoever--must begin speaking the truth without fear of reprisal or "spin."
I was talking about this with a friend on Saturday night, and she was expressing how frustrated she was getting with Republicans' inability to put up any defense to an attack from the Left. As case in point, she brought up the spectacle of Trent Lott being run out of his position of power over his comments in praise of Jesse Helms. And, I must say, I agree with her wholeheartedly. That was not only a tactical defeat for the Right--it was a shameful display. Republicans are regularly called racist, homophobic, misogynistic and hateful, usually for no good reason at all--AND ALMOST ALWAYS WITHOUT A STRONG RESPONSE! And, of course, the problem with a non-response to a false personal attack of that nature is not that you lose the argument--it's that you surrender the intellectual field of battle. Once a conservative allows themselves to be called a racist for no good reason, then they no longer have any standing to bring up any issues facing the black/Hispanic/Muslim community. Can you possibly imagine Trent Lott now going before any audience anywhere and making a case for a revival of the family within the inner city?
Some of the most important issues facing the country are ones that conservatives cannot engage in the discussion of because we've surrendered that battlefield. Persistent poverty in the inner city is criminal and dangerous to society as a whole (remember that "Disconnectedness defines danger;" is any part of American life as disconnected as the family of three kids being raised by their 11-year old sister because mom is either working three jobs or out pursuing her own habits, and none of the kids know their dads?); yet, the problems are not society-wide, nor are they the latent effects of slavery. "Whitey" is not responsible for the fact that more black children are born to single mothers than they are into families; "whitey" is not responsible for the fact the teenage birth rate in the African population is nearly twice what it is in the general population; and "whitey" is not responsible for the fact that more black youths are murdered by other black youths than any breakdown in any other population subset. And yet conservatives are somehow not allowed to be part of this discussion because any criticism from the outside is dismissed as "racist" and any criticizer is vilified and run out of town.
We must stop being afraid of the labels the Left uses to pin us in corners and shut us up. There is something distinctly refreshing--if wildly disturbing--about the candor with which Douglas Bruce approaches issues. More forceful contributions from more conservatives would do a great deal to move our debates forward.
II. Conservatives need an intellectual Reformation.
William F Buckley led a charge to define conservatism and package it for general consumption some 40 years ago. In his wake, we have had a more than 2-1 advantage in years in office in the Oval Office, even if Congress has--except for one brief period--remained persistently in the hands of the Left. On the shoulders of Buckley's work, we got Ronald Reagan in office--a feat which led directly to the longest period of economic expansion in the country's history and the victorious conclusion of the Cold War.
But the last, great salvo of conservatism was fired in 1994, when Newt Gingrich devised the "Contract with America." In the wake of that, Republicans gained control of Congress for the first time in forever. However, since then, nobody has been able to articulate a forceful case for continuing the policies of conservatism, nor has anybody been able to retool the particulars of the message to modernize it and make it more palatable today. It is telling that, in exile, Newt Gingrich is still the leading voice of conservative philosophy from his place in think tanks--not in government.
It's time for a new voice.
Conservatives need to build on the work of the past, but come together to coalesce around a coherent, comprehensive philosophy for governance. It took Republican majorities the sum total of eight years to devolve from philosophical leadership to merely maintaining power--which led directly to losing power. The challenges facing the country are too great for us to lack a conservative idea for their solution, but the leadership in office has been unable to articulate any good ideas.
[Note that I said "articulate;" I think this President and elements within his White House have good ideas, but nobody has yet been able articulate any of them.]
I will--as I have for the better part of five years now--happily offer my ideas for what such a conservative philosophy would look like. Please feel free to join in.
III. Republicans MUST shake the stench of incompetence from themselves.
Starting with the FEMA response to Hurricane Katrina--whether this was fair or real or a media creation does not matter--the overwhelming impression of the White House operation, Republicans in Congress and conservatives everywhere is that they are not fit to govern. And, like it or not, I think the country would rather elect people who they disagree with sooner than they would elect somebody who they don't think can get the job done.
How's that for a bumper sticker?: We At Least Have The Right Ideas, Even If We Can't Make Them Come True.
Or Who Would You Rather Vote For? Somebody Bad At Doing The Right Thing, or Somebody Good At Doing The Wrong Thing?
And, unfortunately, this is the hardest hill Republicans have to climb right now. I think it's no mistake that in my Congressional district (7), a do-nothing, know-nothing, freshman like Ed Perlmutter is being challenged by someone who is a self-described "sacrificial lamb" this year. The perception of incompetence has become so attached to Republicans that all a Democrat candidate (ahem . . . .Jared Polis) has to do is say "President Bush and the Republicans" and they gain 10% in the polls.
Republicans simply must begin to get their house in order. They can no longer accept "questionable" ethics from within the caucus, they can no longer accept pork, they can no longer accept the idea that getting elected is more valuable than governing.
And, I think, that process has begun. I was very impressed with the Republican leadership in the state legislature this year, and they put forth an ambitious agenda which had a lot of success. That has to happen at every level of government all over the country.
Can it happen in five months? I doubt it. We may be headed for the wilderness.
But, if the movement starts early, maybe we can return from the wilderness like Churchill--stronger and more focused than we went in.
I just hope we don't open the door to tragedy while we're figuring this out.