Conservatives: if we’re so smart how come we keep getting out-maneuvered politically? *UPDATED*

We conservatives think we’re pretty smart. We have time-tested ideas, great thinkers (Thomas Sowell, Mark Steyn, Milton Friedman, Jonah Goldberg, etc.), and people support our values in the abstract if the questions don’t have political labels attached.

Given appealing messages and smart messengers, why do we keep losing? Why was our most recent political candidate, who is supposed to be a business genius, incapable of running an efficient campaign right up to and including a functional get-out-the-vote effort? How did we find ourselves in a position where Pres. Obama proposes sequestration, then refuses to offer a budget that would make sequestration unnecessary, then refuses to negotiate with the Republicans, and, at the end of the day, is the one who comes out smelling like a rose in the public’s mind?

How did we end up with a president and a Department of Justice that decide not to defend the law of the land when it comes to the Defense of Marriage Act? Whether not you support that policy, shouldn’t the chief executive be tasked with the responsibility of defending it to the Supreme Court?

Again, if we are so smart why are we losing on our main issue — the budget — and not even making any headway on other issues that will irreparably change America’s fabric? These changes, such as immigration, marriage policy, leading from behind overseas, etc. may actually be changes for the good, but shouldn’t conservatives have a voice in them? Right now, both in DC and in our own cities and states, we’ve been cut out of the debate.

I have no answers to all these questions. I know that, when I see the headlines, I get frustrated. I cannot tell if conservative voters have a knack for electing ineffectual candidates, or if the Democrat media juggernaut is so powerful that we have reached the point at which there is nothing we can do anymore to penetrate Or affect the public debate.

If it’s the former we can perhaps make changes at a grassroots level. If it’s the latter, it seems to me we’ve already lost. It’s time for us to pick up our pathetically small number of marbles, go home, and make our peace with the America that is unfolding before our eyes.

I’m usually fairly enthusiastic about taking on semi-lost causes. I am not, however, very sanguine about taking on absolutely lost causes. If we, the party of tried and true ideas, as opposed to the the party of ideas that have failed every time; if we, the party of genuine intellects instead of sophists, cannot make our case; and if we, the party tackling real issues, such as economic meltdown and national security, as opposed to the party prevailing on cosmetic, made-up issues, such as free birth control and cell phones, cannot make our case, and cannot penetrate the media smoke, we are DOOMED.

Sorry to be such a downer, but we ought to be winning, and we’re not, and at a certain point we need to take responsibility for our manifest and multiple failures. Our candidates are bad, our thinkers don’t communicate outside of the community of true-believers, our ideas are unappealing, and we’re being encircled and destroyed by peanut-brained media talking heads.


UPDATE:  It occurred to me that an alternate caption for this blog could have been “When it comes to messaging, we’re reaching each other, while they’re reaching everyone else.”  Did I say “pfeh” earlier?  I double that pfeh! now.

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  • gpc31

    Why do kids prefer sweets over vegetables?  The collapse of our civic virtue is due to the infantilization of America. People would rather become babies rather than rear them. An economist would cite the concepts of akrasia and hyperbolic discounting.  I would rather cite Niebuhr:  
    “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. 
    Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. 
    Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. 
    No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.”

  • Spartacus

    Indeed, as gpc31 noted, our civic virtue has collapsed.  This is a symptom of a more general collapse of virtue and general loss of faith (“One generation believes it; the next assumes it; and the next denies it.”).  Moreover, as life has become softer and easier, and fewer of us are really required to turn the important wheels that actually make the truly necessary things run, it has become easier to spend an entire lifetime detached from cold, hard reality.  Additionally, we’ve been Cloward-Pivened — Mitt was right about that 47%.  On top of that, not only do we have to dig deep into our pockets to fund any sort of conservative message, but we also have the priviledge, through taxes, of digging deep to fund the statist message in many ways; meanwhile, our opponents are decidedly more consistent in the message they fund.  That’s the bad news.
    The good news is that: 1) principles are eternal; 2) we are in tune with those eternal principles; 3) while about 25% of this country is solidly statist and 45% is indifferent / indecisive / confused, a good 30%, or about 95 million, are solidly conservative, and left to their own devices, there is simply nothing on Earth that can stop 95 million conservatives.
    Furthermore, all things built on lies and hubris must ultimately collapse.  And so this whole system will.  Scary times, but that is when 95 million conservatives have an opportunity to pick up the pieces and make something different.

  • Indigo Red

    I, too, am frustrated. The sum of my understanding from having once been a Liberal Democrat and now a Conservative Republican is this: it’s so much easier to be a Liberal and it feels good, too.

  • Mr. T 1977

    The problem is it’s not only the media. Children are basically brainwashed from birth to be liberals. It’s the public school system. It’s entertainment (even shows on Nick and The Disney Channel often make fun of conservatives and conservatism). Yes, even our churches (at least the mainline ones). I don’t really see anyway fighting all of that.

  • Wolf Howling

    Book, you need to make an appointment for Dr. Krauthammer for some happy pills.  The right should have won the last election going away.  We didn’t for a host of reasons, none of which are permanent.  But we are clearly reaping the whirlwind from the far left movement that began in the 60’s and is now at the zenith of its influence.  It is tough times to be a conservative, But this is Dunkirk, not Masada. 
    It is not that our candidates are unappealing – it is that the left is successful in making them toxic.  And when you really drill down, it is often because we don’t fight back at the time.  Many speculate that is what happened with Romney.
    It is not that our ideas our unappealing – what could be more appealing then setting the stage for a very strong economy.
    Our problem is communications, communications, communications.
    1.  Communications problem number one is that the vast majority of our side of the equation are nowhere near as vocal and animated as they need to be.  It is the difference between Gingrich and Mitch McConnell.  The only person in Congress today who comes close on the right to the type of aggressiveness we need is Sen. Cruz.  
    2.  Communications problem two – reaching the low information voters who decided the elections.  The ideas to do this are out there, with the best probably coming from Glen Reynolds – buy up some of the popular pop culture web sites, keeping most everything the same but for the occasional article on politics.

  • Pingback: Bookworm Room » Jonathan Tobin gets to the heart of the matter when it comes to conservative failures()

  • Earl

    Sean Hannity interviewed Gingrich Thursday, and he pointed out that during the revolution of the ’90s, the House majority met regularly and agreed on their talking points for the day, or week, or whatever.  So, whenever a House member was interviewed, the message went out.  Today, if you interview 10 different members, it appears that there are 10 different agendas – or at least major emphases – among the GOP caucus.
    Newt Gingrich has MANY problems – he’s a flawed human being, like the rest of us – but he is a gifted communicator and the current GOP could learn a LOT from him.  His diagnosis is the same as Wolf Howling’s — communications!!  It’s not a coincidence that when the Republicans (and the conservatives) were led by The Great Communicator, things went a LOT better. 
    Why isn’t one or another of the House GOP membership out giving an interview, or a speech, or a press conference on a daily basis, spreading the Republican message?  IS THERE a “Republican message”?
    That we, who are paying attention and caring deeply about this, can’t all reply to that question with answers that resemble each other is proof positive that this is a giant failure on their part.
    I want to say that I LOVE Ted Cruz – I went on to someone’s site and sent him a letter of support and encouragement when he was under such fire for asking perfectly reasonable questions, and explaining the reason that getting answers was so important, about Chuck Hagel’s speechmaking and who was paying him to give them.

  • Mike Devx

    Oh, how I wish that the GOP House was at least half-filled with fighters like Ted Cruz.  People who knew what their convictions were and believed in them and fought for them!  People who trusted that the voters would stay with them.
    Our GOPers today lack all conviction, while the worst Democrats are full of passionate intensity.  (Yeats nod.)
    The Democrats wouldn’t know what was hitting them if the GOP were fighters.  What is the reason?  It may be that our GOPers are corrupted utterly by special interests and the GOPers will *never* reduce the size of government, never, and they are betraying us with every step and every breath.

  • Earl

    Mike (and all):  Reading the following two essays will give you significant insight into what’s going on with the GOP.
    Warning!  It’s kind of depressing…although we’re not without hope.


  • Mike Devx

    Thx Earl!
    The second link is Angelo Codevilla’s followup to the now famous (classic?) “ruling elite” article from a couple of years back.  Codevilla is now talking New (3rd) Party, making the GOP out to be on the verge of Whig-dom.  It’s something I agree with.  I’m convinced the GOP has no intention or desire to institute smaller government nor limited government.  They want to share total power with the Democrats, is all, and institute some of their own Big Government Power.
    I’ll stay with the GOP if by some miracle they do end up truly advocating smaller, limited government.  But I don’t expect them to, I’m not holding my breath, and, really, all I myself am waiting for is the Big Split to occur within the GOP.  I’m waiting for the new Party to emerge.  
    As far as I’m concerned, the GOP is dead.  It just doesn’t know it yet.  Whenever the new Party gets its act together, the best and the brightest in the GOP, the fighters for limited government, will leave the GOP for the new Party.  It might not happen.  If it happens, it might not be for quite a while.  I don’t care.  The GOP is dead.

  • Ymarsakar

    A lot of people don’t want to get rid of the LEft, they just want to make a deal where they benefit. This is similar to how people think that self defense is composed of either giving the criminals what they want or running away. It does in no way destroy the threat. It just delays it, at the best case scenario.

  • Earl

    Ymar: I do not foresee EVER “getting rid of” the Left.  The Utopian delusion is strong in a certain segment of human-kind, and isn’t going to be going away.  The answer is to get most folks to see that their ideas are wrong, and lead to disaster if implemented.  The current GOP doesn’t seem interested in doing this.
    Mike: We live to serve!  :-)
    Honestly, the Republicans have been “dead to me” for some time, now.  I vote for their candidates when it matters, otherwise for the libertarians in order to strengthen their message and see that it gets out to as many as possible.  They’re a disaster in some respects, but not a threat to implement the crazy stuff….the more people hear (Can I say “Rand Paul”) a message that the government needs to do a lot more Leaving Us Alone, the better.

  • Mike Devx

    Earl, sometimes I view myself as a child having a tantrum.  “I’m taking my ball and I’m going home!” and I stomp off in a snit.  That’s how I view the way I feel about the GOP these days.
    I view the GOP as part of the problem, not part of the solution.  Every election year, I am told that *realistically* I must choose between the Democrat and the Republican.  And of course, given that, I’d choose the Republican as the lesser of two evils.  I’m told that if I don’t vote for the Republican, I am in essence giving the vote to the Democrat.
    But after 2012 I just cannot play that game anymore.  I reject that argument.  I’ll offer my own analogy: A mother of an eight year old girl has a choice of two boyfriends.  One will molest her daughter.  The other will beat her daughter and send her to the emergency room.  She has to choose one!  My answer: No she does not.  She has to spurn both of them, reject both of them, and go it alone or find a new boyfriend.
    I’ll still support individual GOP candidates, but only as individuals, and ONLY for the reason that I can support them. Merely being a lesser evil than the Democrat alternative will no longer suffice.  If I view that candidate as still being part of the problem rather than the solution, I’m not voting for him or her, period.  I’ve had it.

  • Earl

    Mike:  Maybe it’s because I take much the same approach, but I can’t see any “snit” in what you’re doing!  How does that last paragraph not make sense?
    On the other hand, although in a state where my vote would not make any difference in the outcome, I’d have voted Libertarian in 2012, if there were ANY chance that Romney might have edged out Obama, I’d have voted for Mitt. 
    As I think about it, though, Mitt and folks like him may actually be “part of the problem rather than the solution”.  Reading those two articles helped me down this path….we need people of conviction who speak the conviction.  A Ted Cruz; a Rand Paul….who are a LONG ways from Mitt Romney!