Conservatives are only starting to feel their way around the wilderness.
Even in a horrible economy, and facing an administration beleaguered by scandals on the Mexican border, in Libya and in crony “green energy” failures that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, the conservative message was rejected at the polls in November.
This newspaper predicted in October that the election would be “a battle of reason vs. emotion. Freedom vs. dependence. Hope vs. fear and envy. Belief in the individual vs. reliance on the collective.”
It was. And in each case, the conservative case wasn’t made convincingly enough.
This, despite the fact that a large plurality of Americans describe themselves as conservative.
Conservatives have a lot of soul-searching to do in the next few years.
Certainly the media helped swing the election – primarily by downplaying the Obama administration’s multiple scandals and repeated lying over the Fast and Furious gun-running operation on the border, and the breakdown in security at our embassy in Benghazi that led to four deaths and many lies.
Conservatives need to think about how to break through the “mainstream” media bias. It won’t stop of its own volition. Consider: Barbara Walters, in a sitdown interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – who presided over the Benghazi Bungle – had no questions about the fatal errors and tall tales that followed. Instead, she practically prodded Clinton to run for president in 2016.
When was the last time someone from the “mainstream” media begged and pleaded with a scandalized Republican to run for president? Not gonna happen.
But conservatives can’t control the major networks. What they can do is hone their own message.
Others have noted that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was trying to win voters over with facts and figures, while President Obama appealed to their emotions.
Republicans also need to do a better job of reaching out to minorities – who would do well to consider the conservative message of liberty, responsibility, limited government and more.
But perhaps the biggest item on conservatives’ plate is the need to make a moral case for capitalism.
As much as Republicans, it was capitalism that took a beating Nov. 6. And the Republicans and the capitalists may have no one else to blame but themselves.
Republicans were caught absolutely flat-footed by the health-care issue, to their undying shame. They could’ve made it an issue themselves after turning back “Hillarycare” in the 1990s – but they ignored the issue. They could’ve put forth market-based solutions to getting more people health care coverage – but they did not.
Meanwhile, the capitalists continued to go about their merry way – some of them even getting bailed out by taxpayers after the 2008 crash.
So, by 2012, a lot of Americans looked around and saw that there were a lot of fat cats even in a down economy, and that some of them got even fatter by laying off low-income workers.
Instead of making the moral case for capitalism, the capitalists made capitalism look bad.
We can no longer take it for granted that the benefits of capitalism speak for themselves. They ought to, of course: It’s rich with irony that the Occupy Wall Street protesters who so despise capitalism have to juggle their smart phones while drinking their latte from Starbucks. Whatever.
As an almost knee-jerk reaction to the excesses of capitalism and the gap between rich and poor, America seems to have pivoted recklessly toward socialism. Free stuff is always nice, and the siren song of “spreading the wealth around” is a seductive one.
But socialism is inherently immoral. It involves taking the fruit of someone’s labor and giving it to someone else – largely without regard to how industrious or responsible or even grateful the recipient is. Elections and revolutions may give a government that power, but not the right.
On the other hand, there is a powerful moral case to be made for capitalism and free markets.
“Limited government and individual liberty aren’t merely policy alternatives. They’re moral imperatives,” writes Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute. “Only the moral case for freedom and opportunity ... will have a chance to save the American experiment that we say we want.”
Brooks says three things are necessary for that argument to be made: 1) “the right of every American to earn his or her success”; 2) a fair society “in which hard work, creativity, and honest competition result in financial reward”; and 3) a system that lifts people up from poverty.
Given that it’s clearly free enterprise and free trade that have done that around the world, that case needs to be made. Over and over and over.
And capitalists are the only ones who can make the case.
The first step: Make capitalism as moral as possible.
That step has yet to be taken.