There was always the thought in some of us conservative voters that perhaps the Republicans losing this election might be good for the conservative cause overall. The concern was of course, at this crucial time, what might such a loss cost us, in the economy, in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places?
Well, it’s moot now. It happened. So now we have to use this defeat to the advantage of the conservative cause. It’s time we took a hard look at what has happened to conservatism in this country.
In 1994, the Republicans won a huge victory (bigger than the ones Democrats won last night), and they won it on conservative principles. They clearly laid out their intentions in the Contract with America. By contrast, the Democrats won by laying out as few principles as possible, except that they didn’t like Bush or the war. And because an awful lot of Americans also don’t like Bush or the war, they won. But we should not interpret this as a general swing to the left. Look at the success of amendments prohibiting gay marriage all over the country as just one sign of that; look at the conservatism of the Democrats generally who won as another.
So we need to return to our roots, return to true conservative principles. First because it’s right. We need to stop trying to triangulate and compromise to please people. Look where that’s gotten us. Look where “compassionate conservatism” has gotten us.
Back to free markets. Back to the rule of law. Back to spending restraint! (This one is especially important.) And lower taxes. This is one thing Bush has gotten right, and we all need to fight for it. The Democratic victory last night was accomplished with almost no word about higher taxes, but this is what they’ll do. It was moderate Democrats who won last night, but it will not be moderate Democrats in charge of the House (or the Senate, worse comes to worst). It wil be Pelosi and Kennedy and Leahy and that lot.
Bush’s moderate, “compassionate” conservatism never got us more than a slim majority in this country. Clinton’s faux moderate liberalism never got him more than 43% of the vote. But Reagan? Remember Reagan? Back when we got used to hearing the term “landslide”? There was a man of principle, a man who did not apologize for being a conservative.
We’ll have to weather the storm here. If the Senate isn’t lost, perhaps we can avoid the worst legislative consequences for last night. The sad thing is that those likely to suffer the most from last night are our friends in the Middle East who trusted us, just as the South Vietnamese and Cambodians paid the highest price for the Democratic victory in the early 70’s. But we need to use this to be better. And being better does not, even in a purely political sense, mean being more liberal, or more moderate. It means being true to our princples, true to what we are. We are conservatives, and let’s stop apologizing for it.