Thanksgiving brings time for reflection and appreciation. We all have many reasons to be grateful for the blessings in our personal lives. But in a year in which so little has gone right politically for conservatives it is good to recall ten things which should engender gratitude — and indeed rejoicing — from conservatives.
First, President-elect Barack Obama won by assuring voters he would pursue tax cuts, victory in Afghanistan, prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and go “line by line” through the federal budget to eliminate waste and unneeded programs. We can doubt his sincerity or ability to achieve these ends, but he won by recognizing and espousing center-right principles. If he pursues some or all of them, the country will be the better for it. If he doesn’t, he is unlikely to succeed or maintain the broad-based popularity needed to keep Democrats in power.
Second, Hillary Clinton, James L. Jones, and Robert Gates are on tap to fill key national security roles. This is not the crew to bug out of Iraq before the job is done, repeal FISA, rush off to meet with Ahmadinejad, or support a 25% cut in defense spending. On national security, the president-elect in essence has conceded that the Left’s vision is impractical and dangerous. To echo Ronald Reagan on the Cold War, conservatives can rightly crow to the Left in the Democratic Party: “We win, you lose.”
Third, Congressional Republicans have not been a source of pride for the GOP, but the elevation of Eric Cantor to minority whip and Mike Pence to the Republican conference slot puts two of the more articulate and attractive Republicans in the spotlight. They won’t win very many votes, but they can paint stark differences and begin to restore intellectual vigor to Republicans inside the Beltway.
Fourth, Mitch McConnell. If your numbers are down, your morale is low, and you are facing a savvy Democratic president, there is no one better situated to prevent the worst and eke out small victories. And given his toughly contested Senate race, we can look forward to an equally vigorous race against Harry Reid in 2010.
Fifth, Republican governors make up a diverse, attractive, and effective group of leaders. From the ranks of Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Tim Pawlenty, and Mark Sanford will come conservative ideas, articulate spokesmen, and a raft of contenders for 2012. If President Obama fails to bring about economic recovery with a reenactment of the New Deal, this group stands ready to present alternative plans for reviving the economy.
Sixth, the MSM has never been in lower repute. Reporters and editors from their own ranks concede their bias. The stock of major media companies is plummeting. They are in bigger trouble than the Big Three auto companies. And they show even less inclination to reform. That means the opportunity exists for conservative and new media to cultivate large audiences. If alternative media outlets continue to offer hard-nosed reporting and balance the fawning analysis of the MSM, they can become the media of choice for more and more Americans.
Seventh, there is a rich — and sometimes contentious — intellectual community on the Right in think tanks, new media, and grassroots organizations which did not exist in other moments of crisis for conservatives (e.g., post-Watergate). Yes, they sometimes devolve into acrimonious bickering. But they also provide the potential for intellectual and political rebirth. There is no shortage of ideas or voices on the Right.
Eighth, we complete seven years without a terrorist attack on American soil. Despite the many criticisms of the Bush presidency, he achieved what few thought possible — a perfect record in foiling terrorist plots which would have struck our homeland and killed more Americans. If the president-elect follows the advice of Attorney General Mukasey, a good deal of the homeland security architecture erected during this administration will remain in place and will continue to afford protection for Americans. (For example, just as he did in his final vote on extending FISA, President-elect Obama’s assessment of the Guantanamo detainee cases may lead him to the same conclusion which the Bush administration reached on an important aspect of security — we need an appropriate non-civilian legal system and a secure location for dealing with very dangerous people in an unconventional war of undetermined length.)
Ninth, President George W. Bush and General David Petraeus persevered against tremendous odds and have placed us on the verge of one of the great military turnarounds in our history. We can disagree about the wisdom of the decision to go to war in Iraq, but a victory with a stable Iraq allied with the U.S. and a humiliated al-Qaeda is now within our grasp. By avoiding defeat and empowering an Arab nation to take up arms and defeat Islamic terrorists, Bush and Petraeus furthered the security of the U.S., the region, and our allies around the world.
Tenth, Republicans in Washington and around the country will no longer have George W. Bush tied around their necks. For example, Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell can run for governor on his own merits — likely against Clinton operative Terry McAuliffe — without need to defend an incumbent president as did Virginia Republicans in two losing Senate races and one failing governor’s race during the Bush years. That will be duplicated in races around the country as Republicans, freed from a horribly unpopular president, can run on their own ideas and contrast themselves with their Democratic opponents. A huge weight has been lifted.
All of this may seem small comfort to conservatives who finish the year on a losing streak. But Republicans were counted out in 1964, 1976, and 1992. Their resources are greater and their ranks are larger now than at any of those times. They can be thankful as well for the truism that nothing in politics is permanent. So for all these things — as well as the many blessings in their own lives — conservatives should indeed be grateful.