The marriage between the Republicans and conservatives has been loveless and unsatisfying. The Republicans keep “stumbling home after midnight, smelling of booze and cheap perfume.” And it is time for the union to come to an end.
Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause by Richard Viguerie thoroughly lists, more than any other resource I can think of, the balance of indiscretions the Republicans have visited upon conservatism under the Presidency of George W. Bush (and even before that election). The days of the Contract With America are long gone and replaced with what can only appear to be a very similar spending philosophy of Democrats.
Viguerie systematically dissects the policies of the George W. Bush administration in the key areas of foreign policy, immigration, the right to life, the culture of life, the courts, and taxation. He shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the canard that this is one of the most extreme right-wing administrations in history is absolutely absurd. Sure, Bush has thrown conservatives some carrots, but he has shown that he’s more than willing to grow the federal government and not buck the system. He, after all, has only recently cast his first veto and has not used rescissions to block pork-barrel spending. Chart after chart, figure after figure, the book painstakingly reveals what is apparent to most conservatives, George W. Bush isn’t one of them.
This disaffection has been brewing for some time and came to a head with the immigration debate. While the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court and the UAE ports deal resulted in acquiescing to the grassroots conservatives, immigration showed the GOP literally telling conservatives to go to hell. The argument was that by leaving the Republican plantation, we got eight years of Clinton, so now we had to suck it down. If that statement seems like it is defecating on conservatives, that is because it is exactly what it is doing. Conservatives should shut up and keep sending money to the GOP. We should leave the governing to the elites.
This book is a challenge to that accepted logic and presents a game plan to attempt to bring principles back into politics. The central premise is that conservatives should stop being wedded to the GOP and start being a movement that hopefully brings both parties into line or at least gives us an occasional chance to vote against the GOP candidate without implicitly supporting a repugnant alternative.
The status quo will lead to the situation we have here in Illinois – party insider Rod Blagojevich running against party insider Judy Baar-Topinka with both having approval ratings on a good day rivaling President Bush. Not even party loyalists like their candidate. The state is on the verge of bankruptcy, in worse financial shape than any other state, and there is no discernable difference (literally) between the policies of either party. Lastly, both are corrupt to the core, having fair numbers of high-level staffers in both parties under federal indictment or conviction. That is the future of national politics if we do nothing… a bankrupt government, corrupt politicians, and sham elections between candidates no one likes.
One of the more scandalous, but most insightful, suggestions is dropping support for the death penalty. This stand, more than others, directly contradicts the general conservative support for a culture of life and undermines the moral authority that would otherwise be present if that stand was not there. Controversial, yes, but spot on.
The missing piece of the puzzle, however, is a social justice component (and I don’t mean that term in the typical regressive way). Only one sentence of the book makes mention of communities supporting their members but the fact is, there are times where people will need a helping hand from others. Disasters strike, illnesses drain life-savings, people die, and so on. A political ideology that does not explicitly have a plan on how to handle those situations is one that leaves a large portion of the population as a captive audience to the left and big government. Big government may not effectively meet people’s needs, however, many view it as “better than nothing”.
Arguing against minimum wage laws makes good economic sense, but is politically meaningless when there is no response to the fact some people simply don’t earn enough for their families. The argument must seek to address this, and that comes by creating a living wage by reducing the cost of living (most of which comes in the form of taxation or increased cost of regulations passed down to the consumer).
Further, if an effective conservative movement is to be founded and empowered, it will take more than focusing on politics. Liberty is impossible unless it includes both political and economic liberty. Likewise, reform is impossible unless it includes both political and economic aspects. The book mentions Google and Yahoo as regressive-supporting companies. There needs to be conservative equivalents so people can vote with their pocketbooks. Arguing for conservative principles while supporting regressive causes (by using companies that are in the tank with regressive causes) is self-defeating, or at least self-impeding.
The book is exactly what it purports itself to be, a starting point and a moment to reflect. It is a quick read and should have nothing foreign for anyone moderately informed about politics. The disaffection of conservatives is a growing one and now, more than ever, is the opportunity to fight for the principles we believe in. Viguerie includes several steps to take to the field of battle which involves common people running for office, or at least taking the effort to support conservatives over Republicans. It won’t be until common people run for office that we’ll have any real reform, or at least a return to some attempt at representing common people instead of the enfranchised elites.
In 2006, when only Congressional seats are up for grabs, conservatives have the chance to make it clear to Republicans that conservatism will win or lose elections for them, just as MoveOn has just proved that moderate and sensible Democrats like Joe Lieberman are not welcome in the Democratic Party. If conservatives engage the political system now, we can win. If we fall silent, we will become like Illinois, where all the potential leaders and talent flee the state and surrender it to the left. For now, Republicans have won only because of the incompetence of the Democrats; that will not be the case forever.
The question is: can we put principle above partisanship?