Washington Monument

Is Conservatism Dead?

There was a perfect storm that arose during the 2008 presidential election to completely guarantee a Democratic sweep. The conservative pundits say that if the economy hadn’t soured so quickly, they had a chance. Common sense tells us otherwise. Quite simply, they failed miserably at implementing the core conservative values that they purported to embrace. The American people have responded by asking for change. Not embracing of liberal values, but rejecting the incompetence of pseudo-conservatives that promised them one thing and pursued another.

Exhibit #1, the Deficit. It has doubled under George Bush and the Republican congress from 5 trillion to 10 trillion. Fiscal responsibility is a core belief in conservatism and the major reason the Contract with America under Newt Gingrich was so popular. They balanced the budget and paid down the deficit. The Republicans took this success and said that if they had a Republican president, they could do much more. They got one and we have seen the result.

Exhibit #2, the Rule of Law. They have tap danced over it, but this administration has ignored the core principles that set America apart from third world nations. We hold prisoners without trial. We torture terrorist suspects. We eavesdrop on Americans without due process. We started a war without consensus support from the world. Each of the actions had a proper legal solution, but the administration couldn’t be bothered with pursuing it. Who needs due process when you are right?

Exhibit #3, Pandering to the base. Terry Schiavo? A legislative action passed for one person? Are you kidding me? Is this the smaller non-interventionist government that they promised? Rejecting science for political and religious reasons is something I thought I’d never see in America. The separation of church and state is a founding principle for our democracy. This extended into the evolution and intelligent design controversy. The conservative movement is based on logic, not the emotion of liberalism. This contradicts its basic ideals.

Why did the Republicans lose the election? I can’t actually believe that rational conservatives are asking this question. Quite simply if you go to a restaurant and order a prime rib and they bring you a hamburger, do you continue to patronize their establishment? Probably not. Even if they protest and tell you that their food is better than Wendys, the fact is you were lied to. In the case of the Republicans, they have campaigned on conservative values and had everything they need to implement them. They failed due to their own incompetence and narrow self interest.

Where do they go from here? The path is clear. By being truly conservative the party can thrive. The United States is ideologically libertarian. People believe government should provide a safety net, but not support them. If we have to balance our budgets, the government should too. Also, Americans are not crazy about governments legislating their lives, loves or bedroom activities. That is for theocracies. Finally, we believe in the constitution and understand that it is the document by which our lives are enriched, not a pesky set of rules preventing us from achieving our goals.

This is the original form of conservatism established by Barry Goldwater. Unfortunately, it has been lost over time by politicians attempting to garner favor with groups that will help them get elected. It is still spoken in the intellectual conservative circles, but is quickly hushed by the current base who is gearing up for Palin in 2012. The Clinton administration has shown that Democrats are capable of being fiscally conservative and supporting economic growth. They have already embraced social liberalism. If the Obama administration shows fiscal responsibility and reasonable economic recovery, the conservative movement might well be a historical footnote much like the Whigs.

We could be at a tipping point in American politics. The citizens of the United States are descended from great patriots that valued freedom and common sense over all other concerns. They saw that ideologies rooted in politics and religion had oppressed man for centuries. This sense is alive and well in our country and it is why we thrive. Once politicians realize this and embrace it, their party will thrive. And the nation will too.


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