2012 testifies convincingly that one election doesn’t speak for the next.[read_more]
It was a remarkable election. Like the midterm elections of 2010, the innate conservatism and common sense of Americans swept across the country repudiating the radical left agenda of President Obama and his cabal. It was heartening in a variety of ways.
However, the presidential election of 2016 waits just around the corner, and Obama’s victory in 2012 testifies convincingly that one election doesn’t speak for the next.
The reason is that this new century has been a disaster for a large portion of average Americans, who are scared and uncertain about the future, both economically and culturally. They have lived through the “compassionate conservative” hyper-spending and federal expansion under George W. Bush, and they have watched as the nation has gone rapidly downhill from there with the radical deconstructionist agenda of Barack Obama.
The last two presidential elections, along with the last three midterm cycles, each in their own way reveal the massive fault lines separating the political, cultural and religious life of America – and the disconnect between the citizens and their own government.
They also confirm how challenging the road ahead will be for the divided Republic.
Nothing demonstrates more clearly just how difficult the cultural and political battles ahead will be, than the vast amount of social real estate owned by the hard left radicals – in spite of various electoral setbacks. From college campuses to Hollywood, corporate boardrooms to the permanent administrative state, and from too many pulpits, the 100 year “long march” of far left extremism has sunk deep roots into America’s institutions. The relentless, coordinated attack on the culture, civil society and religious orthodoxy have fused as a singular threat to self-government and individual liberty.
At the same time, for Republicans and too many self-proclaimed conservatives, the political inheritance of the Reagan Revolution’s narrative and the successes of the 1990’s have, with a few notable exceptions, faded into hollow sound bites and ill-defined, issueless campaigns that barely penetrate the political discussion, much less the broader culture. The mindset seems to have hardened that American exceptionalism and the heritage of a free people are secondary, at best, to the promotion and advancement of a softer public image for Republicans that promises a gentler and better managed welfare state, never making anyone feel uncomfortable for any reason, and party loyalty above principles.
However, there is a growing number of conservatives who have come to believe that it is self-evident that if the new century’s conservative movement is to be an effective agent of political and cultural change, it needs to re-boot itself, and begin coordinating and planning for long-term engagements to win political battles, and to retake and hold cultural ground, instead of simply moving from one election cycle skirmish to the next.
Each election is obviously important; but focusing only on the next election elevates party mechanics, personality and coincidence over the ability to build a movement that has core principles and objectives that can be harnessed, and used to educate, inform and build coalitions of likeminded citizens for a generation.
Re-booting an on-going, year round conservative movement that looks beyond the next election cycle should have specific and unifying objectives:
- To unite around a platform or coordinating mechanisms that are dedicated to directly engaging and educating the culture on core founding principles;
- Committed to securing a clear, unapologetic voice in the broader political discussion based on those core principles and pursuing a direct and consistent intellectual confrontation – a real fight – with the left;
- Determined to reestablish a conservative, pro-liberty narrative that connects directly to the American story and speaks about the lives and values of average, working Americans (Populism with principles if you will);
- An enthusiasm to take the arguments of the conservative cause into the marketplace or to specific battlegrounds, whether it is activism on specific issues or petitioning the government in mass, regardless of party.
The question is, of course, who will do it? Can it even be accomplished through a self-protecting and dilapidated Republican Party structure at the state and national level? And, most importantly of course, where to start?
While all these imperatives are important, creating an “information loop” and beginning the long process of bypassing the schools, media and the culture by finding or creating new, direct venues to educate and inform citizens for the long haul, simply can’t wait.
This is borne out by the startling political decline and the acceptance of historically alien doctrines like Obama’s. There is a breathtaking lack of historical knowledge, logical sophistication, and civic literacy that is being spread through the nexus of public education, supported by entertainment and social media platforms.
Study after study has demonstrated that a majority of students leave public education with only nominal exposure to the founding precepts of the Republic, the civic order, and its maintenance (in addition to being the recipients of drastically falling test scores). The new century’s phenomenon is that a majority of younger adults, and many immigrants, have a cultural identity and political outlook largely established through various cultural and social media relationships, often reflecting group rather than individual outcomes. They have no basis upon which to defend the classical liberal definition of freedom, or the Judeo-Christian ethic that gave life to Western thought and values.
The best illustration of the cultural shift in younger citizens and the use of social currency and the development of cultural triggers – was the ability of President Obama to prevail in the 2012 elections in spite of his performance failure. That Obama captured the white, under-35 demographic with nearly a 20 point margin, is an especially foreboding event.
Bringing guerilla tactics to the cultural and information wars, and defending self-government in new ways within the culture require conservatives to think out of the box, and find significant resources to mount long term campaigns – probably without the help of the Republican Party.
The unapologetic advancing of foundational principles in new and culturally relevant ways, and developing counter-prevailing social currency and triggers that advance conservative principles in the popular culture could be the most important work of the next decade for conservatives.
There is no end to the different ideas and methods that conservatives could use in new communication venues, limited only by the large financial and creative investments required. One idea might be a national effort that would focus on the creation of infographics in different media aimed at students from elementary school to college, and distributed through service vendors and electronically through event sites. They would advance in a causal and personal manner primary constitutional precepts, where personal rights originate, and why they are critical to free citizens; explain in real-world examples how a free economy empowers and enriches individuals, reduces poverty, and provides the resources to improve the environment; and present basic civics and how constitutional government works, and a citizens responsibility in the process.
In addition to electronic and social media efforts, new communication tactics for conservatives have to be anchored by feet-on-the ground activism across the 3,031 counties in the U.S., connecting with every group of citizens (including minority groups with the same foundational infographic material in specific languages, reintroducing the very values that presumably attracted immigrants to the America to begin with).
There is no single or easy fix to the political and cultural mess the nation is in, of course, but it has to start with more than one election cycle. Ronald Reagan and many dedicated conservatives spent 20 years with much less access to the culture, taking this identical message to the country proceeding the landsides of 1980 and 1984.
However, as the divided nation careens towards 2016, the radical left’s obvious goal is to cement the Obama-era into the American model, to destroy the remaining constitutional brakes, and to permanently marginalize the core Judeo-Christian ethos.
For this generation of conservatives the simple goal is to hang on to the Constitutional Republic – to save America and her heritage for its posterity. Perhaps no past generation has had such a difficult task set before it. Or so little time to do it in.