I am concerned that certain Republicans just can’t take yes for an answer. To borrow an old adage, they can’t handle prosperity — with prosperity being defined as the voters rejecting Obama’s agenda (and thereby embracing theirs).
This is partly because of the fact that many grass-roots conservatives mistakenly believe that their only obstacle to moving a conservative agenda forward in Washington is the so-called Republican establishment — GOP centrist politicians and their institutional supporters. But I believe it’s more than that.
It’s not just these GOP congressmen, the party organizations, the party fundraising groups and right-leaning pollsters, few and far between as they are, that stand in the way of a mainstream conservative agenda. It’s also a great segment of influential Beltway conservative pundits and commentators. And it’s a substantial percentage of Republican voters, some of whose loyalty is stronger to the party than to conservative policy, and others who are just dazzled and deceived by the moderate punditry and the seductive wooing of Republican incumbents who sidle up to constituents during campaign season and pretend to be far more conservative than they are.
That is, Reagan conservatives mustn’t believe our battle is only with great swaths of the Republican ruling class and its enablers, as formidable as they are. There are also plenty of Republican voters who consider themselves more moderate than grass-roots conservatives and who believe that the magic formula for Republican victories is a concerted move to the middle, which, they say, is solely a matter of strategy and does not represent any disagreement they have with conservatives on policy.
But the ugly secret is that it’s not just a matter of electoral pragmatism for many of them. No, these people actually disagree with us on substantive policy issues; they aren’t nearly so conservative as mainstream Reagan conservatives. They either believe or are sympathetic to the media hype from both sides of the aisle, for example, that Sarah Palin is a nuisance, that Sen. Ted Cruz is an extremist, that Republicans should moderate their position on immigration and that Republicans shouldn’t so strongly oppose Obamacare, and the federal entitlement structure, which is sure to bankrupt this nation if we don’t change it.
I am raising and emphasizing these distinctions because they are relevant to how we grass-roots conservatives proceed to advance our agenda in the future. If it were just a matter of dealing with a recalcitrant and entrenched GOP power structure, it would be one thing, but as many Republican voters agree with the establishment, we must do a better job of selling our case, which we’ll never do if we assume it is unnecessary.
I am very serious in my assertion that too many self-styled Republicans, some of whom even call themselves conservative, don’t believe strongly enough in conservative ideas. It is more their failure to embrace conservative policy solutions, not their fear of polls and ultimate electoral defeat, that moves them to cave rather than vigorously oppose Obama. If they believed as fervently in conservative ideas as we do, they’d also believe in the power of those ideas to appeal to strong majorities of the American electorate if properly articulated.
Instead, because of a lack of confidence in conservative ideas and in their widespread appeal, they urge restraint in discussions over the budget, immigration and Obamacare, to name a few. While denying they oppose conservative ideas, they insist these ideas will prevail if we keep our powder dry until the next election and then the next election and the next ad infinitum. In the meantime, they play into Obama’s hands by pre-announcing Republican defeat should they take Obama down to the wire on a budget negotiation or too vehemently oppose his unilateral immigration actions. They don’t dare act in any way that would involve a risk that voters would think we’re too mean, too stingy, too partisan or too racist.
This has been a frustrating, debilitating and self-defeating attitude, which has guaranteed Obama’s ongoing victories and has served as a green light to his policy extremism and executive lawlessness. It has also made Obama appear stronger, more popular and less extreme than he is, which significantly damages the conservative cause — and thus America.
The good news is that there are more of us than them. There are way more mainstream conservatives than moderates among Republican voters, and the majority of the overall electorate, like it or not, still remains conservative.
Our experience over the past three-plus decades demonstrates that Republicans win when they promote conservatism and oppose liberalism, not when they timidly emulate liberal demagogues and panderers. Conservatism is not extremism; it is common sense and prudence.
We Reagan conservatives, then, must not cede our influence by our silence, pessimistic resignation or apathy. We have to regain our own confidence, not merely in our ideas but in our ability to reclaim the dominant position in our own party and also in the nation itself.
We no longer have the luxury of always deferring strong action until that never-materializing next election — the one that is decisive enough to embolden the perpetually fainthearted. Obama is doing nearly irreversible damage now, and we must stop him, so let’s recapture the narrative as we proceed to fight him as if he is the policy enemy we believe him to be.