I first conceived of the idea for this article in the spring of 2009. At that time the thought of conservatives in power again in the US really did require a flight of fantasy. But since then, the arrogance, duplicity and recklessness of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi gang has caused many Americans to conclude that entrusting the fate of the country to this radical triumvirate was a huge mistake. If the polls continue their current trend, we might yet see a Republican Congress and/or a Republican President before the year 2012 is out. So perhaps the flight I am about to take the reader on is not really that fanciful; nevertheless, the title is catchy and so I did not alter it.
Now conservatives can come to power in one of two modes. One mode would be as it was with Reagan and with Gingrich—i.e., a strong, yet limited mandate. For example, Reagan ran and was elected as a staunch conservative, but he never enjoyed a conservative Congress, even in the Senate where the Republicans had a majority. Similarly, Newt and his band of followers in the House enunciated a strongly conservative platform of governance; but he was easily checked by a liberal President and the remaining liberal members of Congress. Still, Reagan and Gingrich did have some signature successes. If nothing else, they substantially slowed the inexorable march to the Left that the US has been on during the last century. And if conservatives come to power in this mode again, they need to prepare now in order to make better use of the opportunity than either Reagan or Newt did.
But there is a second mode in which conservatives could achieve power. That would be with a vigorous, sustained and clear mandate to return these United States to a truly conservative political, economic and cultural system of the type that characterized the nation during its first 125 years of independence. This would be heralded by a smashing conservative electoral victory, which installs a strongly conservative President and a very conservative Congress, and then a repeat of the process multiple times for at least a decade or two (comparable to what the liberals enjoyed in 1932-1952, albeit of course in the opposite direction).
Now that’s a flight of fantasy. Or perhaps not! Given the horrendous mess that Obama and his liberal minions are making, there are signs that the American people might finally be coming to their senses. An increasing number realize that the utopian dream of fairness and equality (of misery) toward which the liberals have been driving us for a century is in actuality a gigantic nightmare that will destroy the American way of life. Perhaps the people will be ready shortly to throw the bums out, abandon statism and start over. If so, conservatives must be ready to lead that counter-revolution. I will lay out a grand program for doing so in a future article. Here, I will concentrate on a simpler program that will be suitable if, as is more likely, conservatives come to power in a more limited mode.
Polls and pundits continue to assert that the US has been and remains a center-right country. I am not so sure. In the 110 years since 1900 we have had 19 Presidents—eleven Republicans and eight Democrats. The Democratic Presidents have ranged (in philosophy) from moderately liberal (Kennedy) to ultra-leftist (Wilson, FDR, Johnson, Obama) with the average far closer to the extreme left than the moderate center. The Republican Presidents, on the other hand, varied from center-leftish (Teddy, Hoover, Nixon and the Bushes) to strongly right (Coolidge, Reagan) with the average definitely closer to the center than the right. This does not strike me as strong evidence of our country’s supposed center-right orientation. In fact, in the last 80 years—during which time we have experienced the New Deal, Fair Deal, Great Society and Obamania—there have been only two strong surges to the right: the election of Reagan and the Republican takeover of Congress led by Gingrich. Newt’s surge fizzled in a haze of faux conservatism wherein the ensuing Republican President and Congresses engaged in a spending frenzy and social engineering worthy of their liberal nemeses. Reagan had more success—especially in foreign affairs (victory in the Cold War) and economic matters (more than 20 years of economic growth and prosperity). Newt’s Contract with America was too grandiose, broad and generic. Reagan, on the other hand, had three clear and focused objectives:
- Cut taxes and pursue deregulation in order to jump start the economy.
- Defeat the Soviet Union and win the Cold War.
- Shrink the government and return it to its proper role as servant, not master, of the people.
Reagan succeeded magnificently in achieving objectives (1) and (2), but he failed spectacularly with (3). Well, two of three is not bad. And his rate of success easily exceeded that of Gingrich, whose agenda was less focused. Therefore, when conservatives return to power, presumably in limited mode, they must be ready to pursue, like Reagan, a short list of clearly defined major goals. And conservatives must stick to them, even though there will be scads of other worthy things they will want to do. But if they attempt too much, they will accomplish, a là Newt, relatively little. So, here are three specific goals that I suggest be the main objectives when our turn comes again—hopefully soon:
- Role of Government. Shrink the New Deal/Great Society/Obamania-inspired gargantuan government that is choking freedom out of American life.
- Defeat Islamic Fundamentalism. Reduce, and hopefully remove the scourge of Islamic fundamentalism as a threat to the US, to the West, indeed to the World.
- Recapture the culture. Initiate a multi-faceted approach toward rescuing the culture of the US. The basic goal is to restore (a reasonable facsimile) of the traditional culture that permeated American life from the 18th to the 20th century. Start on the long path toward delegitimizing the pornographic, anti-family, anti-religious, egalitarian, multicultural, environmentally wacky, anti-achievement, socialistic cesspool that passes for culture in America today.
Let me elaborate somewhat on each of these.
1. Shrink the government. This objective is identical to Reagan’s unfulfilled third. The need is even greater now than it was 30 years ago. There is virtually no area of American life into which the federal government has not inserted itself. It ranges from the picayune (how many gallons our toilets may flush, which direction our small children may face in our automobiles) to the serious (what we may eat, where we may build our houses, whether we can be promoted at work, where our children may go to school) to the tyrannical (controlling our health care, imposing crippling taxes and regulations on our industry, taking our property on an unconstitutional whim). In many ways, the US government today oppresses Americans to a greater extent than King George’s Britain did in the mid/late eighteenth century. To make matters worse, our government leavens its tyrannical behavior with incompetence. It continues to expand entitlement programs that are on the cusp of bankrupting the country; it increases the national debt to levels guaranteed to impoverish our children and grandchildren; and it refuses to identify clearly and fight resolutely the Islamic fundamentalists (foreign and domestic) who have declared war on us.
The task seems herculean, especially in light of two enormous obstacles. First, the entire education establishment (from kindergarten through graduate school), aided by the media and other leftist-dominated, opinion-forming organs of society, has brainwashed too many Americans into thinking that the government is actually performing its assigned role properly and that in fact it is not doing enough. Second, the liberals have arranged it so that an ever increasing portion of the populace is dependent on the government—for direct payments, jobs, contracts, grants and various ‘benefits.’ Such people may recognize the threat that the government has become, but they resist any change for fear of jeopardizing their own welfare.
Shrinking the government is indeed a tall order as Reagan’s inability to manage it substantiates. But there are things a conservative government could do; for example: eliminate the most egregiously wasteful programs, reduce the budget of every federal agency by at least 20%, close at least one cabinet level department (Education, Energy and Labor would be my first choices), re-energize the deregulation process started by Reagan, and of course cut taxes and spending in general. There is infinitely more that could be done, but that would require the second mode of power. Even in the limited mode, I believe the country would support an effort to shrink the leviathan and move toward restoring the government to the more modest role intended by the Founders.
2. Defeat Islamic Fundamentalism. This objective is of course analogous to Reagan’s second. It is worth recalling that the United States (under Wilson) led the West in the defeat of the German-Austrian-Ottoman alliance—although historians have begun to doubt the worthiness of that effort. On the other hand, there is no question as to the moral correctness or necessity of the effort led by the United States and Britain (under FDR and Churchill) to rid the world of German-Italian-Japanese fascism. Similarly, the effort sparked by Reagan (aided by Thatcher and Pope John Paul II) to dispatch communism to the ash heap of history was a monumental achievement of the Western World. Much as we wish that these sorts of challenges would stop coming our way, the US and the West are confronted once again by an ideological enemy bent on our destruction. The next conservative government must strive to defuse this threat as well.
The hardest part of this effort will be deciding to do it. The detailed plans will be drawn of course by those who will implement them, but it seems to me that at a minimum those plans must include:
- No more pussyfooting around the identification of the enemy—rather a clear pronouncement that radical Islam, together with the countries that harbor and promote it, is indeed the enemy. Unfortunately, we must also recognize that this pernicious movement enjoys wide support in the Muslim world.
- Dealing with Iran, whether or not it has become nuclear—presuming that the Mullahs have not been done in by the locals before then.
- Dealing with Saudi Arabia, the seedbed of Wahhabism and therefore the font of much of the philosophy that motivates the enemy.
- Helping Europe to deal with its large but undigested Muslim population. Those that pledge allegiance to radical Islam and refuse to be assimilated should be deported; and Muslim immigration must be drastically curtailed.
- Ditto with our Muslim population.
- Developing strategies to help bring the non-radical part of the Muslim world into the 21st century.
3. Recapture the culture. There is no analog to any of Reagan’s objectives here. Certainly Reagan recognized the dreadful effect that the liberals’ capture of the culture was having on the nation. But I think he didn’t see it as a political problem, at least not one he could address in a fundamental way. (He did on rare occasions though; e.g., in his ‘farewell’ speech, when he talked about a re-emphasis on the study of American history by the nation’s youth.) Well, not only should the culture be seriously addressed by a new conservative government, but in fact, I believe this objective to be the most important of the three. I (and others) have spoken often of the slowly developing, deadly scheme by which the Left captured the culture of our nation. (See e.g., http://new.ronlipsman.com/2009/05/17/what-culture-is-it-that-the-politics-have-caught-up-with/) The theory was that ‘the politics would follow the culture’ and that is precisely what has happened. Therefore, I believe it is impossible for conservatives to permanently regain political supremacy unless they first recapture the culture. This must be one of the fundamental objectives of any future conservative government.
Once again, those who actually do it will set the agenda, but that agenda should certainly incorporate the ideas expressed in another of my IC articles (http://new.ronlipsman.com/2009/04/10/different-visions/), to wit: ‘We need to have conservative philosophers and cultural icons that state the case for and epitomize the worth of traditional Western culture. More mundanely, we need to nurture conservative film makers, fund conservative law schools, build conservative foundations (like Heritage, but more of them), defend and expand talk radio, establish conservative newspapers (like the Washington Times, but more of them), concoct an organization to counter the NEA in the minds of the country’s teachers, abandon the mainline churches and support religious institutions that champion traditional values…’ I would augment those ideas with the need to: develop major conservative media outlets (beyond Fox News) to combat the big three networks; aggressively attack the liberal mindset that dominates higher education; and finally demand that our founding documents (the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers) be studied regularly by all members of society—adults as well as children.
Hopefully, a conservative recapture of the culture will not take a century—as the successful liberal assault did. A conservative renaissance in limited mode will allow us to get started. If the miracle of a strong mode occurs, we can surely get it done in a matter of decades. The politics will follow and then my grandchildren will not have to worry—as I do—about whether their grandchildren will live in a free and prosperous United States of America.