Dear beloved conservatives:
I have good news and bad news for you as you gather this week in the nation’s capital for the 35th time for the nation’s largest annual political meeting.
Let’s start with the bad news: The conservative movement is dead.
It has, as Rush Limbaugh would say, assumed room temperature. It is deceased. It has checked out. It has departed this earthly plane. It is gone, over, completed, finished.
It died young. Conservatism as a movement was not much older than the Conservative Political Action Conference, founded in 1972. It began in earnest with the failed Barry Goldwater presidential campaign in 1964. It reached its pinnacle of power and influence during Ronald Reagan’s presidency from 1980 through 1988 and was resurrected briefly in 1994 when Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, took over both houses of Congress.
It was euthanized by President George W. Bush.
That is the short, bittersweet history of the modern conservative movement – one that championed so much of what is right, but did so with tactics and strategies that were so wrong.
I’ve been warning of this impending doom for a number of years. Check out my 2003 book, “Taking America Back,” for a detailed prophetic explanation of why conservatism never had a chance.
For the purposes of this brief missive, however, let me summarize: No political movement, relying on popular support, can ever succeed without the following:
- a definition of success
- an offensive agenda for achieving that success
- a long-term battle plan for cultural renewal, not just short-term political victories
On the first score, conservatives have not been successful at painting a picture of what they want America to look like in the future. They can tell you they want less government. They can tell you they believe in personal responsibility. They can tell you they believe in free enterprise.
But, on the details, it gets a little murky. There’s little consensus among those who define themselves as conservatives about how much less government they want, how much they are willing to rely on personal responsibility in a world stricken with moral rot and when free enterprise simply becomes avaricious multinational corporatism.
The most serious deficiency in conservatism is that it offers no “offensive” agenda. It is a well-meaning ideology that fights exclusively on defense.
Except in football, you cannot win with defense alone.
You can’t win a battle with defense alone. You can’t win a war with defense alone. And you cannot win a political struggle with defense alone. The very term “conservative” strongly connotes the defensive nature of the movement. It is about “conserving” rather than advancing. It is about holding on to turf rather than taking new ground.
Conservatives too often define themselves by what they are against rather than what they are for. It’s understandable in a world literally dominated by socialism, moral relativism and tyranny.
Further, conservatism is a movement almost exclusively limited to the battleground of politics.
Those who conservatives oppose don’t have to win elections to achieve their goals. They press their agenda through the culture. They use the press, the entertainment industry, the major foundations, government-sponsored media, the education system, academia, etc. to change the way people think. When that fails, they use government agencies and the courts to force their will on the people.
With rare exceptions, conservatives don’t engage the major cultural institutions. They criticize them. But they do little to take them over and use them to their advantage.
I will be addressing conservatives at their annual gathering in Washington this week, but not with the vitally important message that it is time for redefinition. They’re not ready to hear that it is too late to be “conservative” – that, instead, it is a time for a radical plan to restore freedom, morality and justice to our nation. I understand it is difficult to discard convenient, self-assuring labels in what appears to be a world of dualistic choices – liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum.
But if you doubt what I am saying, consider this year’s presidential election choices.
Consider also who will be the starring acts of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference.
It won’t be Rush Limbaugh.
It won’t be Ann Coulter.
It won’t be Sean Hannity.
It won’t be Michael Savage.
Instead it will be the man who euthanized the conservative movement – George W. Bush.
Need I say more?
My dear beloved conservative friends, I approach you in love and respect today to urge sober reflection. You love America’s Founding Fathers. Now it’s time to start living like them.