Constitutional Conservatism or Die
Now that Mitt Romney has lost, virtually everyone agrees that the Republican Party needs to change. Liberals say the GOP needs to become more moderate. Conservatives say it has become too moderate. In a way, both sides are right — and wrong.
The moderate Republican ticket that liberals and GOP establishment types covet has been tried recently: Mitt Romney and John McCain. Conservatives are right that a more moderate Republican Party is not the answer.
What many of them are wrong about is conservatism. To turn on talk radio or watch Fox News is not to experience the philosophy of Bill Buckley, the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan, or even something like the free market proposals of Jack Kemp. Aside from Paul Ryan’s proposals for entitlement reform—one of the few tangibly conservative and positive differences that separated the Romney and Obama tickets—the populist Right remained stuck on stupid: The President “apologizes” for America; the U.S is threatened by Sharia Law; “Where’s the birth certificate?” Obama eats dog. Donald Trump. Dinesh D’Souza.
Demagoguery, partisanship, and conspiracy theories do not represent ideas. They represent a lack of them. Throw in some clumsy language about “legitimate rape” and couple it with Romney’s Dubya impression on foreign policy, and Americans saw a “conservatism” they didn’t want. Who can blame them?
But they don’t necessarily want Barack Obama’s America either. Voters weren’t in love with George Bush when they rejected John Kerry. They just liked Kerry less. On paper, Democrats should have lost, if sour economies and high unemployment still have anything to do with how people vote. That Romney couldn’t beat Obama says far more about the Republican Party than it says about the Democrats.
The formula for victory is not being more Democrat-lite or neocon-heavy. It also does not lie in embracing socialism or abandoning social issues. The GOP can become a national party again by offering new ideas rooted in old ones.
Since the 2010 elections, “constitutional conservative” has become a popular term for some Republicans, who actually set out to distinguish themselves from the Bush-era. But what does it mean?