Pt. 1 – Defining Victory
In my previous post I explain that, before you can chart a path to victory, you must define what victory is. I also talk about the importance of defining true victory not as simply winning elections, but “the application of our principles made manifest through sound policy.” Holding power simply to enrich yourself and your friends is worthless. The real victory is to use that power to advance our ideas and our principles.
This definition of victory naturally flows into the next question that needs to be answered: What exactly are the principles that we are going to advance? As Republicans we claim adherence to Conservatism, but there are so many that claim to be Conservative without practicing it that it seems to have lost all meaning. We need to come to a basic understanding of what it means to be a Conservative, and why it differs from other political ideologies.
Delegate Scott Lingamfelter recently took to Facebook to ask what it means to be a Conservative. The responses he received were about what you would expect. Less taxes, limited government, etc… Scott even mentioned Russell Kirk’s “10 Conservative Principles.” What I felt was missing, however, was a basic understanding of the Conservative ideology, and the ability to describe that ideology in a persuasive argument that falls somewhere between the refined air of Kirk, and the sound bite statements of “less taxes,” and “limited government.”
To me, the foundation of the principles of Conservatism is centered on truth, responsibility, and morality.
Webster’s defines truth as “being in accord with fact or reality.” Truth is immutable. It doesn’t change. I don’t know how anyone could attempt to build their lives around a philosophy that wasn’t based on truth. When forming a position on any issue, it has to be built on a foundation of facts and truth, so that it can actually solve the problem it is designed to address.
Responsibility speaks to an individual’s obligations to behave correctly and to be held accountable for their actions. It speaks to the obligations we have in a free society. When we voluntarily cede power to government, it is our responsibility to remain vigilant, knowledgeable, and engaged in the political process. When developing policy, it should be done in a way that allows people to take advantage of opportunities to improve themselves, not designed to create a dependency on government or others.
Morality is the ethos we use to define right from wrong. It keeps the strong from preying on the weak. It is the restraint we place on ourselves to respect others and the rule of law. In America, that moral code is founded on faith in God and the Bible. Without a strong moral code, there is nothing that will stop a society from sliding into anarchy. When deciding what to do about an issue, which side to take in an argument, we should not be concerned about doing what is popular, or what is easy. We should always be concerned with doing what is right.
Truth, responsibility, and morality define the Conservative approach to policy and government, and it sets us apart from other ideologies like Liberalism, and even Libertarianism. It is that commitment to these principles that form our support or opposition for different policy positions on things like fiscal policy, social issues, and the role of government.
The Liberal ideology views the role of government as savior. It looks to government to care for us and nurture us as a mother nurtures a child. It allows people to shirk their responsibility to provide for themselves and their family, preferring to cede that responsibility to government. In doing so, however, the Liberal loses their will for self-reliance and makes them entirely dependent on the sufferance of others.
Libertarians mainly view government as the root of all evil. They call for government to play as little role as possible in society. Their desire for freedom also extends to a freedom from common moral principles on many social issues such as abortion, drug use, gambling, or sexual identity. The Libertarian ideology comes the closest to a pure capitalist, “survival of the fittest” society. Taken to the extreme, the Libertarian position can ultimately lead to a devolution into anarchy.
The Conservative views government as neither savior nor Satan. Instead, we view government more like the referee in a football game. He is there to enforce the rules of the game. He’s always there, but he should only be noticed when someone breaks the rules. We recognize that the game needs rules, but that those rules need to be few and fair. The rules should be designed to allow the game to move forward with as little interference as possible, but to maintain order and encourage responsible play.
A conservative fiscal policy supports lower taxes and less government regulation because it has been proven to promote entrepreneurship and economic growth. It supports a balanced budget with a streamlined, efficient bureaucracy because it is the responsible position to manage the people’s money wisely. It supports tax breaks for married couples, children, and charitable giving because it is the right thing to do.
A conservative social policy is driven by a Judeo-Christian morality. It opposes abortion because it is morally wrong to willfully snuff out an innocent human life. It is the responsible thing to take care of our children, and raise them to be decent, honorable members of society, and it is a proven fact that abortion is damaging to both the physical and mental well-being of the women who undergo the procedure.
On homosexual and transgender issues, a conservative believes that an individual is free to choose to live a life that makes them happy, but refuses to enable a behavior that is based on biological confusion by supporting gay marriage or teaching that differing sexual orientations, or confusion about one’s gender, is something that is normal and should be celebrated.
A Conservative environmental policy supports conservation efforts and combating pollution, but opposes climate change hysteria because the scientific evidence is clearly opposed to the claims made by alarmists demanding radical changes in energy use. It is irresponsible to attempt to force people to accept these harmful changes without any evidence to support them, and it is morally wrong to claim any scientific theory is “settled,” when the very nature of science is to constantly learn and observe.
There are far too many issues to list them all here, and each conservative principle I have mentioned, or not mentioned, will inevitable have specific policies and laws that are proposed. Because of the imperfect nature of man and this world, you will never be able to develop a policy that will make everyone’s life better.
There will always be exceptions to the rule. There will always be the horrible example. Because of this, we should work to insure that any policy we propose is one that is based on the truth, not based on faulty information. It should be a responsible policy that works, one that will actually solve the problem it is trying to solve. Finally, it should be supported because it is the right thing to do.
We need to resist the urge by some to change what Conservatism stands for, to become more “Moderate,” in order to try and attract votes from Moderates and Democrats. That would be a betrayal of what Conservatism is. You don’t suddenly change what you believe to become more popular. All that does is tell people you don’t really believe in anything, and you will lose more support than you hoped to gain by your flip-flopping.
We should not be urging the members of our party to vote for bad policies simply because we want a “win.” We should not be tolerating members of our party that vote against good policy for the sake of political expediency. Our ability to steer the ship of government does not come along as often as we would like, so when we are put in charge, we need to make the most of the time we have.
I know that some of you are looking for more concrete answers, but it makes no sense to talk details before you know what the goal is and what you should be doing when you reach it. For those of you looking for those details, fear not. In the next piece, I will look at organizational challenges and changes that need to be made for the Republican Party to be effective again.