Now Isn't the Time for Despondency

Promoted: Ed Feulner is the President of the Heritage Foundation. -Matt Moon

[Listen to Feulner and ask him questions today at 12:05 p.m. ET during the Conservative Bloggers' Briefing on BlogTalkRadio.]

Conservatives today need to get their mind right. And the first order of business is to stop equating the Republican Party with the conservative movement.

Our opponents on the left are happy to draw this false parallel. Before the 2006 elections, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne argued, “The decline of conservatism leaves a vacuum in American politics.” According to Dionne, the failures of the Republican Party were a failure of the conservative movement.

A couple of months ago, the left-wing American Prospect ran an article, "The Coming Conservative Crack-up." After describing what he saw as fatal Republican mistakes in the presidential campaign, author Paul Waldman concluded: "In other words, all the pillars that have held up conservatism for so long are crumbling." There it is again: If the GOP fails, conservatism must be crumbling.

Last spring the New Yorker ran a widely discussed article by George Packer, "The Fall of Conservatism: Have the Republicans Run Out of Ideas?" That title commits the same error: Republican failures are interpreted as the fall of conservatism.

I expect this from our opponents on the left. They will seize upon any pretext to announce the death of conservatism. They've been doing it for decades. But too many conservatives today are buying into that fallacy. That is a dangerous mistake, because it will sap your will to fight. If you believe the current sorry state of the GOP is a measure of the health of conservatism, you're bound to conclude that the conservative movement is done for.

If you want to see when conservatives were in trouble, go back 35 years to 1973, the year The Heritage Foundation set up shop. We were just a handful of people in a few rented rooms. At that time there were no cable outlets like Fox News. There was no conservative talk radio, because the Fairness Doctrine was still in effect. Al Gore hadn't invented the Internet, so there were no conservative bloggers exposing the biases of the mainstream media and delivering conservative commentary to millions of readers.

In those days, the conservative movement was in trouble. In fact, it barely existed. Today the Republican Party is in trouble -- serious trouble of its own making. But the conservative movement is not in decline. In addition to Fox News, hundreds of talk radio programs and scores of national magazines, conservatives have achieved a staggering presence on the Internet. Blogs like The Next Right have inspired the next generation of conservative leaders to plot the future.

Given the results of the election, it's obvious that Congress and the White House won't be receptive to many conservative ideas. So we'll be playing a great deal more defense. And there will be plenty of defense to play as liberals try to redistribute wealth, abolish the right of workers to cast secret ballots on union elections, nationalize health care, bankrupt energy companies that use coal -- the list just goes on and on. It will truly be a “target-rich environment.”

But there's good news here, too. Conservative are better equipped than ever before to play defense. We have analytical resources like Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis; we have a vibrant network of allied organizations that can be mobilized very quickly when policy issues come to a head; we have a virtual army of bloggers who can alert tens of millions of Americans literally within hours. And we have some of the best educated and most experienced policy experts in the world.

And while we are playing defense, we must also be educating the American public – both on first principles and on specific strategies to build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society can flourish.

This isn't a time for despondency. It is a time for optimism.

This isn't a time to look backward with regret. We need to look forward with hope and purpose and commitment.

Now isn't the time to let political setbacks drain our resolve. It is the time to remember that progress doesn't follow a straight line. Setbacks are a natural part of gaining ground.

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Dr. Feulner the GOP & the Conservative Movement...

...are both broken.  Both have lost much of their effectiveness.  As has your organization of which I am a proud member.  Actually its hard to separate the Movement Conservatives and the HF.  As goes HF so goes the conservative movement, as I view it.  Or at least HF is highly influential to the latter.   It'd be interesting to know how many HF members voted for Obama.  I'll wager too many did.  So what has gone wrong?  And lets not be in denial - something is drastically wrong with the communication process.  The process between "conservative" elected representatives and the citizens who voted them into office.  As I see it,  the HF and the Conservative Movement have been infiltrated by something that many  find repugnant.   Something that has caused them to lose excitement/ enthusiasm.  Caused too many of them to stay at home on both 11/7/06 and 11/4/08.   And I'm not speaking of liberals, either.  Reagan democrats.  Independent conservatives.  And far too many "estranged" conservative Repub's.     The HF has taken on a position that causes them to carry an enormous amount of responsibility for the direction our Nation. 

I have my beliefs as to what this unclean element is that is driving former conservative voters away from the GOP in droves.  There's a taint.  Contamination.   HF should waste no time in the  location and destruction of this internal parasite.       Darvin Dowdy 

Forget Conservatism," Please...


Forget "conservatism," please. It has been Godless and thus irrelevant. As Stonewall Jackson's Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:

”[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today .one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It .is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth."

Our country is collapsing because we have turned our back on God (Psalm 9:17) and refused to kiss His Son (Psalm 2).

John Lofton, Editor,

Recovering Republican

economic reality

 Economic Freedom in the US, as measured by the Fraser Institute Index has decreased during the Bush Administration (it went up significantly during the Reagan administration, and remained about constant during the Clinton Administration).

Right now, Barak Obama is surrounding himself with real economists, like Austan Goolsbee (who supports NAFTA) and Christina Romer (who has studied how tax increases kill GDP growth).  We may see a Clinton-esque administration that does not decrease economic freedom, while "playing socialist" for the media.

I don't know if the GOP lost because they have been increasing spending (Medicare drug benefit, useless wars, etc.) while decreasing economic freedom (SarBox, HIPPAA) or if it was because John McCain wasn't "Save the Blastocysts!" or "Evolution isn't Real" enough for the theocratic wing of the GOP. 

But we do have some polling data that shows that McCain lost key rural voters on the economy, if nothing else.

Had the GOP pushed for breaking up Fannie and Freddie back when they had control of Congress, I suspect the current economic crisis might not have been quite as bad.  At least they should have broken them up after the Fannie corruption came out.

Or the GOP could have ended the Drug War, which incarcerates huge amounts of otherwise potentially productive workers, breaks up their human capital links, leads to more single parent families, and causes large amounts of violence.  Simple economics, a cost/benefit analysis.  The cost of the Drug War is larger than the benefit, just like alcohol Prohibition.

By the way, why do we still have a trade embargo on Cuba?  This reduces the freedom of individuals and companies to carry out commerce.  It is socialist.

Conservatives and Republican Party need each other

more than either group would like to admit.  Sorry Dr. Feulner, but an ideological movement that lacks a political organization to translate policy into action is nothing more than a collection of irrelevant debating clubs.  Converesely, a political organization that lacks an ideological foundation is nothing more than a collection of patronage seeking hacks.

Much of our current situation derives from the fact that liberals and democrats accept this reality, revel in it and cooperate to achieve the objectives of both their idealogues and their political professionals.  Our idealogues on the other hand want to implement conservative principals without actually governing, preferably without associating with anyone who soils thier principles by actually governing.  And too many of our political professionals view the idealouges as little more than useful dupes whose votes, money and volunteer time can be purchased with mindless pandering that may help win elections but is a miserable way to govern.

Bottom line -- Public policy is ultimately developed, refined, approved and implemented by elected, appointed and career government officials.  Nongovernmental organizations can scream and protest but unless they are willing to enter the political arena (ie. support an existing political party or form a new one) they produce nothing more than hot air.  But when they enter the arena, they should do so with a clear purpose and focus on achieving real results rather than a series of meaningless electoral victories.  Partisan politics and democratic governance are messy forms of governance, often requiring difficult compromises and distasteful associations, but what is the alternative?  If you want promote conservative principles, you must be prepared to engage the politacl process and govern in a way that produces results voters will support.