February 21, 2008


John Hawkins has a good post up today called Conservatism: Principles and Power. One section that caught my eye was this:

We've also gotten way off the tracks on the "purity" issue. There's this sense that if conservatism gets more pure, if we can just get rid of the RINOS, we can dominate again -- but that's not true. When a political party is losing, they need to find ways to draw more people into the tent, not throw people out.

I've been reading many comments sections these days, so I'm sorry that I can't remember where I read this. But someone was complaining that the Religious Right gets all the focus as the base of the Republican Party. He said (paraphrase), "As a fiscal conservative, when will I finally be accepted as part of 'the base'?" I completely relate to this. I want to know when my worries about spending will matter as much as others' worries about the sanctity of marriage. Pres. Bush (pbuh) has been running around like a teen with his dad's credit card, but all the questions at the YouTube debate were about which parts of the Bible the candidates take literally. I just don't freaking care.

In another comment thread the other day (sorry, don't remember where I saw this either), Democrats kept saying that the reason they need to defeat John McCain is so he won't overturn Roe v Wade. Honestly, that is so far from my mind right now that it made me snicker. I would prefer that abortion be left up to the states, but this issue is not at all a priority for me in voting. I am worried about the war and about spending. Period.

Hawkins is right when he goes on to say:

We should always be asking ourselves, "How can we reach out to more Americans?" How can we apply our principles in different areas to reach larger blocks of voters? What new solutions can we come up with to the problems that the American people are concerned about? In some of these areas, we've done a good job. In others, we haven't.

Solutions. We need real ideas, and realistic ideas, especially on spending. I remember how thrilled I was when Pres. Bush was talking about reforming social security back in 2004. I was beside myself with excitement at the time, but it went nowhere. And I think the Democrats are deluding themselves over health care the same way we did over social security four years ago; it's just not going to happen. Or at least it's not going to happen the way they want it to.

I remember hearing John McCain in one of the first debates getting hammered for the immigration bill, and he got an exasperated look on his face and tried to explain that it wasn't a perfect bill, it wasn't even something that he personally was all that thrilled about, but that you have to make concessions and compromises in order to get anything done in Congress. And I felt for him in that moment. It's so easy for those of us on the outside to point fingers at Congress about what they should and shouldn't be doing, but we don't have to sit in the same room as Nancy Pelosi and try to hammer out solutions. Can we even have any idea how hard that must be?

Most people don't like McCain because he is too willing to work with the other side, but that's how you get more people in the tent. And I quoted Lileks yesterday on compromise; I do believe that it's folly to compromise on your major principles. But if Congress is at a roughly 50/50 split, there's no way a MoveOn.org idea nor a Pon Raul idea is going to pass the vote. The solutions will have to be somewhere in the middle.

Which is why I think that the most important thing is for Republicans to get seriously better at explaining how their positions help people. Read a Thomas Sowell book and you have all the info you need, in layman's terms, to show people how economic ideas that are typically labeled "Republican" are the better choice. So why don't our Republican politicians do this? Steal from Sowell if you must; I bet he wouldn't mind! But make people realize that all these feel-good ideas the Dems come up with -- everything for everyone, free! -- are nonsense. Help people think beyond stage one. Show them that a clean environment is good but Kyoto will cripple us, that more affordable health care is within our reach if we let the free market take its course, or that a higher minimum wage means we get our hours cut. Arm the voters with knowledge and the tides will shift, and when Congress tips in our favor, we have to make less concessions and compromises.

We need to stop letting Democrats get away with "stage one thinking" and start pulling more people into our tent. Why are the same people thrilled that Lieberman moved slightly right of center but appalled over John McCain? There should be plenty of room on our side for both of them, for everyone.

Micklethwait and Wooldridge said that our country is steadily getting more conservative. I'd really like to believe that. But I think we could give it a little push if we got better at explaining our solutions.

Posted by: Sarah at 11:33 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 I left a comment related to this topic yesterday on your Obama post but the site didn't process it. I completely agree. I was a big fan of Guiliani, yet another Republican the so-called "hard right" of the party groaned about for months for being too moderate. I had a hard time understanding this because in my mind, if he was eager to lower taxes, cut entitlement spending, and get aggressive on defense and national security, he was a great candidate. The very socially conservative wing of the party wants to be the party's identity and are now doing everything possible to ensure a democratic win (in my opinion) by bashing McCain at every available opportunity. I think the reality is that many Republicans don't relate any more to the evangelical right than many democrats do...but they care deeply about out-of-control spending, suffocating taxes, and terrorism.

Posted by: Nicole at February 21, 2008 04:41 PM (YHVU/)

2 Good post Sarah. “We need to stop letting Democrats get away with "stage one thinking" and start pulling more people into our tent.” I totally agree with that. I’ll never understand why “we” let “them” continually drag the debate into nonsense. However, your next line “Why are the same people thrilled that Lieberman moved slightly right of center but appalled over John McCain? Is easy to explain, Lieberman is liberal D Senator who is hawkish, McCain is a R trying to claim he’s a conservative while running for president but he is not. Kind’a apple/oranges stuff. (BTW, I’ll be voting for the Maverick.)

Posted by: tim at February 22, 2008 07:53 AM (nno0f)

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