Conservatives face a major political challenge, but they can tackle and overcome it as they have done three times before. Three prior examples demonstrate the right way and the wrong ways to put America back on track and bounce back from a disappointing election.
In 1964, Lyndon Johnson won in a landslide over Barry Goldwater. In the congressional elections of 1974, Republicans suffered major losses because of Watergate, and then lost the presidency in 1976 when Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford in a close election. In 1992, Bill Clinton crushed the first George Bush. Those defeats and subsequent Republican recoveries contain lessons to be learned.
After the 1964 defeat, conservatives were persuaded to support the moderate candidate who had cozied up to the Rockefeller establishment, Richard Nixon, instead of Ronald Reagan who was also available. In preferring Nixon and electing him in 1968, conservatives mistakenly overemphasized experience.
The 2008 election showed that popular culture and voter mobilization are far more powerful than public appreciation for experience. Of course, the liberal media covered for Barack Obama’s shortcomings in a way they never do for conservatives, but a strong grassroots campaign can more than compensate for lack of a track record and experience.
After Republicans lost massively in the post-Watergate Congressional elections of 1974, Ronald Reagan spent six years working the grassroots, speaking at dinners, answering audience questions, traveling the country by car and train (he refused to fly), making radio broadcasts, and learning from average Americans. By 1980, Reagan had sharpened his conservative philosophy in sync with what Americans want from their leaders.
In the period from 1974 to 1980, grassroots conservatives and Ronald Reagan learned from each other. That’s the model conservatives should follow now and educate new leaders.
When the economy and foreign policy fell apart under the liberal presidency of Jimmy Carter, conservatives were positioned to defeat him in 1980. Candidates, consultants and activists today should move outside of Washington, D.C. and discover what the remaining 99% of the country wants.
In 1996, Bob Dole failed to learn from Reagan’s example. Dole remained for years in the Senate in both mind and body, and was unable or unwilling to run a grassroots campaign against Clinton. Clinton failed to get 50% of the vote in 1996 and could have been defeated by a fresh Reagan-like approach rather than a rehash. In 2008, John McCain repeated Dole’s mistake, trying to run for president from inside rather than outside the Beltway.
Barack Obama has promised so many things to leftwing extremists that the Democratic Party’s civil war may be ugly. Leftists expect Congress and Obama to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which protects states from being forced to recognize same-sex marriages legalized in other states.
The gay-rights constituency expects Obama to promptly fulfill his pledge to lift the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the U.S. military. Current law requires the dismissal of openly gay service members. A bill to replace the law with a policy that would allow gays to openly serve has 149 co-sponsors in the U.S. House. The sponsor, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), claims the timing is right to pass the bill, telling CNN, “I think that we can do that, certainly, the first year of the administration.”
The feminists expect Obama to pass the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) to invalidate all federal and state pro-life regulations including the ban on partial-birth abortion. They are demanding that the Senate ratify the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which would make abortion a UN right in addition to other interferences with our sovereignty.
The Left expects Obama (who voted against Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito) to nominate justices and judges who believe in a “living Constitution” that they can interpret to implement leftwing policies. Obama is on record as regretting that Supreme Court decisions have not been “radical” enough to order “redistribution of wealth.”
The middle class expects tax cuts from Obama, but his socialist supporters expect spread-the-wealth redistribution to the poor. The anti-war activists who funded Obama’s campaign expect him to pull troops out of foreign hot spots, but Obama later campaigned in support of increasing troops in Afghanistan. All sides of Middle East disputes think Obama will implement change in their conflicting directions.
Obama’s supporters want change, change, change, but he has been stacking his Cabinet with retreads from yesteryear. Obama is already running for reelection — in his acceptance speech in Grant Park in Chicago, he told his supporters that his “change” could take more than one term.
It may be that Democrats, including Obama, will try to be reelected rather than to implement the radical changes that Obama promised. Congressional Democrats can still remember how many of their colleagues lost their jobs in 1994 after they tried to push through Bill Clinton’s liberal agenda, including Hillary health care, and they don’t want to repeat those mistakes. The Obama Administration may have no more direction or clarity than the Carter Administration.
Opportunities to help our nation and please the voters exist at state and local levels for conservative efforts in education, regulation, taxes, social issues, and dealing with illegal aliens. Missouri, the traditional bellwether state, resisted the national trend and not only carried for John McCain but gave Republicans three new seats in the State Senate.
Despite the disappointing 2008 election defeats, the United States still has majorities that are open to the conservative message. A Rasmussen poll of October 3, 2008 found that voters, by 59% to 28%, agreed with Ronald Reagan’s statement in his first inaugural address that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll of October 10, 2008, asked, “In general, do you think government involvement is usually the solution or the problem?” People selected “problem” over “solution” by 53% to 17%. Even the Washington Post poll conducted October 19-21, 2008 reported that self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals by about 7 to 4.
Increasingly, voters believe we have one-party government: the party of the D.C. insiders who socialize together, appear in the media, and give handouts and bailouts to their powerful friends and favored constituencies. Conservatives can defeat that party by campaigning from the ground up, not the top down.
While Obama’s supporters fight over who gets which government titles and bask in favorable media attention, conservatives should not only educate the grassroots, but also educate all potential candidates. It would be a mistake to leave the selection of the issues in the next election to the media. When prominent members of the media chaired the 2008 presidential debates, many of the most vital issues were simply excluded, such as immigration, illegal aliens, abortion, same-sex marriage, jobs, and trade policies. We can’t afford to wait for a handful of state primaries in 2012 to get vital issues out on the table for debate.
Republicans should follow Ronald Reagan’s example and focus on the grassroots with a campaign that will be a learning process for both the voters and potential candidates. It is important to educate the voters about the issues, and it’s even more important to educate all those who are vying to become our leaders. That can best be done by having them criss-cross the country, speak to small groups, and open themselves up to questioning about real issues. Only then can they demonstrate that they are authentic rather than pseudo-conservatives.
Advice from Ronald Reagan
During the years when Ronald Reagan was traveling the country, speaking informally and listening to hundreds of small groups, he sharpened his own conservative philosophy and his vision of where America should be headed. His speech to the 1975 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) spelled out his formula. That speech is so relevant in 2008 that we quote from it here:
We have been through a disastrous election. It is easy for us to be discouraged, as pundits hail that election as a repudiation of our philosophy and even as a mandate of some kind or other. But the significance of the election was not registered by those who voted, but by those who stayed home. . . .
It is possible we have been persuasive to a greater degree than we had ever realized. Few, if any Democratic Party candidates in the last election ran as liberals. . . . Bureaucracy was assailed and fiscal responsibility hailed. . . . Make no mistake, the leadership of the Democratic Party is still out of step with the majority of Americans. . . .
I don’t know about you, but I am impatient with those Republicans who after the last election rushed into print saying, “We must broaden the base of our Party” — when what they meant was to fuzz up and blur even more the differences between ourselves and our opponents.
It was a feeling that there was not a sufficient difference now between the parties that kept a majority of the voters away from the polls. When have we ever advocated a closed-door policy? Who has ever been barred from participating?
Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?
Let us show that we stand for fiscal integrity and sound money and above all for an end to deficit spending, with ultimate retirement of the national debt. Let us also include a permanent limit on the percentage of people’s earnings government can take without their consent. . . . Let us explore ways to ward off socialism. . . .
A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers. I do not believe I have proposed anything that is contrary to what has been considered Republican principle. It is at the same time the very basis of conservatism.
It is time to reassert that principle and raise it to full view. And if there are those who cannot subscribe to these principles, then let them go their way.
Where Did Reagan Votes Go in 2008?
Where did the super majority of votes gathered by Ronald Reagan in his Presidential campaigns go in 2008? Can they be reclaimed by future Republican candidates?
Reagan’s 1980 and 1984 victories were based on a coalition of three different groups. He attracted the fiscal-integrity/limited-government conservatives who had not given up since Barry Goldwater’s campaign, the social conservatives who newly came into the political process to be active against the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion, and the Reagan Democrats (mostly blue-collar, Catholic and/or Irish) who sought a change from the stagflation of the Jimmy Carter years.
In 2008, the first two groups shrank because of lessened enthusiasm for Senator John McCain. Sarah Palin brought new life to the Party, but it wasn’t enough.
The Reagan Democrats were the biggest loss to Republicans when the number-one issue turned out to be the economy and the loss of good jobs that went overseas. A New York Times headline gleefully proclaimed: “Goodbye Reagan Democrats.” That’s why Barack Obama carried Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. McCain got 300,000 fewer votes in Ohio than George W. Bush got in 2004.
The marriage amendment in Ohio won big in 2004, carrying Bush to victory in what turned out to be the crucial state. In 2008, there was no overriding social issue, so the Reagan Democrats returned to their comfort zone in the Democratic Party.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans offered any good solution to the challenge of a depressed economy, but John McCain was particularly insensitive. In the presidential TV debates before the Michigan primary, he brushed off economic questions by pontificating that manufacturing jobs are gone forever and workers should go to a community college and get retrained.
He repeatedly reminded voters that he is the “biggest free-trader” they’ll ever meet, a line that may resonate with a few libertarian and neo-conservative think tanks and the Wall Street Journal, but is a poke in the eye to blue-collar guys whose jobs have gone overseas to Chinese working for 30 cents an hour.
McCain could have called for a level playing field for international trade, such as by changing the discriminatory trade agreements that allow foreign countries to replace their tariffs with a Value Added Tax of a comparable percentage, or by repudiating the World Trade Organization, which has ruled against the U.S. in 40 out of 47 cases and now is punishing us because our law against internet gambling interferes with “free trade” in recreational services. But he didn’t.
McCain did a lot of railing against earmarks (not a big issue with the voters), but he didn’t criticize the political PAC contributions and high-paid lobbyists who promote policies that advantage the multinationals at the expense of manufacturing jobs and small business. Then McCain joined Obama in endorsing the bailout of the big Wall Street financial firms at the expense of the taxpayers.
Obama didn’t have any solution to these problems, but the Reagan Democrats needed a reason to vote Republican and they didn’t get it.
The young people who voted 2-to-1 for Obama were another group that Republicans lost in 2008. They are the generation that has come out of the public schools since they have been teaching political correctness, multiculturalism, diversity, William Ayers-style “social-justice,” self-esteem and other nonsense instead of reading, math, and American history.
It’s time for the conservative movement to restore parents’ rights over public-school curriculum and not leave it up to the anti-parent, pro-diversity policies endorsed by the National Education Association.
Unmarried women were the surprise third group that Republicans massively lost in 2008. By a colossal 40+ point spread, unmarried women voted for Barack Obama 70% to 29%.
One explanation is economic: the women who cast off husbands look to Big Brother Government to support them. They vote for the party that promises more benefits from the Welfare State.
The other explanation is social: the feminists have carried on a 40-year campaign to destroy marriage and what they deride as the patriarchy. They want to replace it with a matriarchy.
In the 1970s, the feminists achieved unilateral divorce-on-demand from state legislatures, unilateral abortion-on-demand from the courts, and unilateral control over children in the welfare class by taxpayer handouts to women that made husbands and fathers unnecessary.
The feminists have continued their campaign against marriage through Joe Biden’s favorite legislation, the Violence Against Women Act, which provides a billion dollars a year to feminist centers to promote divorce and oppose reconciliation. VAWA is based on the feminist ideology that women are naturally victims entitled to tax-paid legal and financial assistance while men are naturally batterers who are not entitled even to due process protections.
The United States today has 24 million children growing up in a household without their own father, and 17 million of those are in mother-headed households. Why is anybody surprised that the dissolution of marriage, depriving kids of their own fathers, and the widespread acceptance of matriarchy, produces eager supporters of Obama’s promise to “spread the wealth around”?
If Republicans want to win future elections, they will have to field candidates who defend U.S. jobs, parents’ rights in public schools, and the institution of marriage.
The conservative movement was built by local study groups in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Those study groups built a grassroots constituency that was ready to go into action when a leader appeared.
Conservatives today should stop looking for a leader, or pondering who they are going to support in 2012, and instead build a powerful grassroots movement that can train conservative leaders to articulate authentic, pro-American conservative principles.
The Audacity of Obama
When Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination, many had high hopes that his breakthrough would move American social consciousness forward into a post-racial era. Many thought the time had come when candidates would be judged by their qualifications and dedication to our country, not by their race.
To see why it is impossible for Obama to play this transcending role, read his autobiography: Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. His Dreams are obsessed with race and race conflict. This book is an extraordinary 442 pages that appear to be written by an experienced novelist who knows how to tell a compelling story laced with minute detail about everything from clothes to odors, fictional characters, and invented conversations. It is complete with the colloquialisms, ungrammatical English, and four-letter words that the author thinks are appropriate to the people he quotes.
Obama describes how he deliberately separated himself from his multiracial heritage in order to give himself a 100% black persona, different and alienated from the white world around him. Obama writes that the book is “a record of a personal, interior journey” to establish himself as “a black American.”
With his new all-black identity, Obama stews about injustices that he never personally experienced, and feeds his warped worldview by withdrawing into a “smaller and smaller coil of rage.” He lives with a “nightmare vision” of black powerlessness.
Obama says that the hate doesn’t go away. “It formed a counter-narrative buried deep within each person and at the center of which stood white people — some cruel, some ignorant, sometimes a single face, sometimes just a faceless image of a system claiming power over our lives.”
Obama’s worldview sees U.S. history as a consistent tale of oppressors and oppressed. He objects to the public schools because black kids are learning “someone else’s history. Someone else’s culture.”
Obama grew up in Hawaii, the exemplar of a melting pot of races, yet he sees it as a place of “aborted treaties and crippling diseases brought by the missionaries.” Although his mixed race was not a handicap in Hawaii, he whined that “we were always playing on the white man’s court . . . by the white man’s rules.”
Obama immersed himself in the writings of radical blacks: Richard Wright, W.E.B. DuBois, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Langston Hughes. Obama’s favorite became Malcolm X.
Obama scarcely knew his father, yet Obama wrote: “It was into my father’s image, the black man, son of Africa, that I’d packed all the attributes I sought in myself, the attributes of Martin and Malcolm, DuBois and Mandela.”
Obama described his happiness in going to Kenya: “For the first time in my life, I felt the comfort, the firmness of identity that a name might provide.” He felt he “belonged” and had come home. Apparently, the only other place he felt at home was in Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church in Chicago.
Obama rejects racial integration because it is “a one-way street” with blacks being “assimilated into the dominant culture, not the other way around.” Does he think America would be a better country if whites were assimilated into African culture?
There is absolutely nothing in this book that expresses pride in or love of or appreciation of America. In 442 pages of introspection extending over his life as a teen, undergraduate and law student at prestigious institutions, community organizer, or working adult, he doesn’t say anything positive about American government, culture, society, freedom, or opportunity.
Obama’s refusal to wear an American flag pin on his lapel sounded too trivial for a campaign issue. But since there is nothing in his book about respect for the flag, or the republic for which it stands, maybe the flag-pin flap does indicate his disdain for patriotism.
In his autobiography, Obama accepts the view that “black people have reason to hate.” His later book is called The Audacity of Hope, but his autobiography, which he has never disavowed, should be entitled “The Audacity of Hate.”