Conservatives Need a Back-to-Basics Message

So how did we get here? High taxes, regulations, massive deficits and what are we doing about it? High taxes, regulations, and massive deficits.”

Mark Levin

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Conservatives appalled by recent events, such as bailout mania and Barack Obama becoming our next president, have to choose how they are going to spend the next four years. They can either succumb to Obama Derangement Syndrome — and the despair accompanying it — or elect to be productive. Actually, the course is clear-cut given how much we care about the nation and our collective futures. The general public should hear from us and hear from us often.

The right must not conduct guerrilla war from red state enclaves, but instead return to core principles and groom a leader capable of articulating them. The dichotomy between Republicans and Democrats must be readily evident, and viable alternatives to leftism and statism must be elucidated. To defeat our foes and save our land conservatives need not a reconstitution, but a reiteration of beliefs. Certainly, the obstacles facing our side and America as a whole are quite serious, but educating the electorate about the merits of our ideas is a necessary first step.

Daunting the process will be, however. Eight years of the Bush administration and its concomitant Grand Old Spending Party have contaminated the reputation of everyone associated with it. That George W. Bush is about as much of a right-winger as was Nelson Rockefeller is no defense. Granted, the president clings to bureaucrats and federal programs in the fashion that most of us hold on to the Constitution, but this truth is largely known only to conservatives. The left has successfully obfuscated this fact and sold the American people on the notion that the 43rd president’s faults are reflective of a conservative ideology he does not now, or ever did, possess. Bushian bon mots, such as “We have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move,” make it tempting to dismiss their criticism, but the president’s devotion to federal paternalism has completely confused both moderates and independents.

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Regardless of how unfair it may seem on its face, a tsunami of federal spending and over-inflation of state has made the electorate no longer cognizant of the inherent differences between left and right. Therefore, over the next four years it is our job to enlighten them. The bottom line is that conservatism is not so much in decline as it is unknown or completely forgotten. This is encouraging as it suggests that Barack Obama has no mandate. His victory was made possible by “moving to the center” and deceiving the citizenry regarding his core values. Obama fully understands that on issues like tax cuts and government waste the public wants nothing to do with leftism. He, therefore, repositioned himself accordingly.

The cure for what ails us can be found in a reaffirmation of conservative basics: whittle down the size of the Leviathan, proclaim the need for free trade, create incentives for entrepreneurship, promote growth, and realize that this is a country which we must preserve. Most of all, we must end the bailout-a-go-go. Robbing from the taxpayers to rescue business is a recipe for nothing but contraction and decline. Business moves in cycles and what goes up must go down. This is intuitive, particularly so in the context of stocks, bonds, and housing. Rather than retreat, we should teach. Public hearings and pro bono gifts to companies must end. Conservatives should reflexively propose that the government stay as far away from the economy as possible. The free market works. Why don’t we give it a try sometime?

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Arthur Laffer, Stephen Moore, and Peter Tanous identify four great killers of economic health in their recently released book The End of Prosperity: How Higher Taxes will Doom the Economy — If We Let it Happen. They are as follows: “trade protectionism, tax increases and profligate government spending, new regulations and increased government intervention in the economy,” and “monetary policy mistakes.” Unlike the political left, the right has no reason to embrace any of these viral initiatives. We can easily restore economic security to the citizenry by proposing what we believe in, and then depart from past practice by defending it vigorously after our proposals become law.

We must also learn from the example of Barack Obama and the election of 2008. Many of us were repelled by the Obama campaign and its vapid mantras like “Yes, Yes We Can” and “Change We Can Believe In.” Yes, these jejune cliches were malarkey — but 53 percent of the population thought otherwise. Change.gov, with its trendy glitz, was victorious. The fact is that we now live in a sound bite society. The solution is not for the right to copy Obama entirely and create mumbo jumbo mantras of our own, but to instead distill conservative ideology into morsels ready for mass consumption. We must meet the electorate where they are at, as serious and meritorious ideas will fail to be processed should they not be noticed. Time is a commodity and the recipe for catching the eye of attention-starved voters is to market our ideas in brief, but memorable, verbal formulas.

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A maxim like “Give the People Their Money Back” meets this criterion. It clashes resoundingly with fallacies like taxes being “what you pay to be an American” or the dues for living in a democratic society. The saying gives emotional resonance to our cause. With just six words — five if you are Joe Biden — we restate the most compelling case there is for downsizing the federal government: a bloated Leviathan rips cash out of the pockets of taxpayers for the purposes of funding programs of dubious worth. No sensible person can deny that individuals make more effective and efficient use of their wages than do central planners. We must follow the tactics of Ronald Reagan as put forth in his speech “A Time for Choosing,” and pound leftist-anti-liberal positions with vigor and debunk their proposals in totality.

More importantly, that we should labor for strangers rather than ourselves and our family is a massive leap of logic. Most people make note of the obscene amounts confiscated from their paychecks and sooner or later begin to wonder about the usefulness of how that money is spent. Their concerns will not be salved by the truth, which is that waste is an endemic byproduct of the federocracy. They also will not be mollified by leftist character assassination towards those who question the efficiency of government programs and wonder whether their alleged benefit is worth the cost. “Give the People Their Money Back” is much more appealing than the present dispensation, one best summed up by phrases like “Give the Bureaucrats a Break,” “Gimme Some Money,” and “Pony Up the Cash, You Hater.”

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Obama’s inauguration proves that packaging is effective and even if we disdain the messenger we can still profit from his example. The delivery system for conservative ideas has an advantage over the left’s. Our proposals are rooted in reality as opposed to faith. Voters will soon see that the president-elect’s grandiose syllables will not translate into greater prosperity and security. When we outline the case for conservatism we simultaneously pave the way for our future victory.

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