CONSERVATIVE - one who favors building on learned experience rather than untried innovation; in a political context- favoring free enterprise, individual and private property rights and traditional mores.
Lately some traditionally conservative journals such as National Review have become less conservative and more Republican. This bodes ill for both constituencies. Kathleen Parker writes recently that social conservatives, particularly Christians are “what ails” the GOP. Others suggest that the party must be more open to pro-abortion candidates and soften its stance on social issues like gay marriage and the 2nd Amendment. They cite statistics that gun owners and white married couples are shrinking as a demographic and Republicans must court the moderates and independents that are put off by the overtly religious.
I have included the definition above to remind the reader that “Republican” is not part of the definition of conservative. “One who favors…traditional” mores however is. The GOP would be well advised to remember this distinction. In 1966 when Ronald Reagan was elected Governor of California, the Republican Party was calcified and dying. It stood for nothing and virtually no one stood for it. Reagan like NR founder William F. Buckley was a movement conservative more concerned with first principles than pragmatic attempts at power. Republicans occupied the White House all but four years from 1968 to 1992. By 1988 to be Republican was to be conservative. George Bush [The Elder] however abandoned Reagan’s legacy for the moderate center over the next four years and facilitated the election of Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992. Returning to principles in1994 Newt Gingrich and his Contract With America led a GOP sweep of both houses of Congress. Sending Sen. Robert Dole, another Republican moderate to the post in 1996 assured Clinton’s re-election.
By 2000, Republicans had repented and nominated the proven conservative Governor of Texas, George W. Bush and won a hard fought campaign to retake the oval office. Solid Republican majorities were maintained as well in Congress through 2006. Bush 43 held on in 2004 defeating Sen. John Kerry. By then however GWB had become compassionate. GOP members of Congress who had been reading the Washington Post for nearly ten years, opened wide the tent and became Democrat Lite. In 2006, they were rightfully swept out. In November last the most liberal member of the U.S. Congress, Barack Hussein Obama was elected President along with 58 Democratic Senators leaving Ronaldus Magnus’ glorious revolution little more than a memory.
The Reagan Coalition that dominated American politics for over 20 years included all those persons described in the definition above, many were Democrats, all full conservatives. A plain reading of this shorthand political history reveals clearly that the Republican Party came to power on the broad shoulders of conservatives and kept that power as long as it remained true to conservatism. Each time Beltway pundits chattered the party leftward [see Rope-A-Dope On the Left; Contra Mundum 5.21.08] electoral losses followed.
In 1992 and 1996 the Republican nominee for President ran as a moderate. Being neither hot nor cold; fish nor fowl, the electorate gagged on Bush 41 and Bob Dole respectfully. Social – conservatives remained loyal. By 2006 it was obvious Republicans for the most part had abandoned conservative axioms and they were turned out. John McCain, ‘The Maverick” that would save the day by attracting independents found his margin of defeat last month equal to the number of independents Bush The Younger got in 2004 that he didn’t.
Republican leaders need understand that many conservatives in the aftermath of the November slaughter are beginning to believe that the party no longer serves our interests. A few party leaders must be getting the message; radio hosts that have gone fool for the party are busy lately reminding conservative listeners they have no place else to call home. Of course, third parties are very problematic. Political organizations though do outlive their usefulness. Whigs are conspicuously absent from ballots recently. Without gun owners, evangelicals and other religious stalwarts more Republican defeats will certainly come followed inevitably by defects of fiscal and national security conservatives. Overtime The Reagan Coalition will reorganize under another banner and the GOP will pass from the scene forever. Let those Republican leaders with eyes to see, see and ears to hear, hear. Drive Christians and other So-Cons out at your own peril.