Culture

7 New Year's Resolutions for Conservatives

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The conservative movement faces many challenges as we turn the calendar to 2015. There are ongoing battles with those on the left who think we are stupid or evil (or both) and with those in the Republican Party who find more in common with the big-government Democrats than with those on the right who favor smaller government and traditional values. As we look forward to a new year, it’s a good time for all of us to consider how we can be more effective activists, so I offer a list of some areas for improvement. This is in no way an indictment of the entire conservative movement or an attempt to stereotype anyone — I am fully aware that most movement conservatives already do these things. But I’ve needed to work on all of them at one time or another (and need to do so on a continuing basis) and so I thought perhaps they might inspire you to set some new goals for 2015.

1. Talk to People with Whom You Disagree

It’s tempting to think of people on the other side of the political spectrum — both those in the other party and those within our own party — as enemies. And while it’s true that there are some extremists who are literally trying to destroy this country from the top down (and the bottom up), the vast majority of people we have disagreements with are really decent people who see the world differently than we do. They have children and families and go to work every day and really do want to make the world a better place, however misguided their efforts may be.

The truth is we have very deep divides in this country and they’re not going to be healed if we demonize our opponents and shun dialogue, so let’s resolve to have more meaningful conversations with those on the other side of the political spectrum in 2015.

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2. Get Involved in Your Local Government

We spend a lot of time talking about how important the presidency is and fretting about what will happen if we don’t elect a conservative in 2016. While the nation’s top executive is certainly important, we shouldn’t underestimate the difference we can make by getting involved in local government. Individual cities, villages, and counties around the country are balancing their budgets and efficiently providing services on the local level, despite state and federal mandates that constantly tie their hands. If that’s the case where you live, thank your elected officials for their hard work and support them in their next election. If they’re not making good decisions, start making calls or writing letters to the editor. Unlike the president or the federal bureaucracy, local government officials are generally very responsive to citizens. If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, find a candidate to challenge the elected official in the next election or consider running yourself.

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3. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

A few years ago I had a conversation with a Republican who ran for a statewide office in the primary. He was highly qualified, but found himself derailed by the machinations of the state GOP, which had decided upon another candidate and made sure their guy would not lose. I asked him why he thought this kept happening to conservative candidates.

His answer was blunt: “Conservatives don’t give.”

He went on to explain that conservatives are the most generous people in the world. They give to their churches, to charities, to their friends and neighbors in need. But to political candidates? Not so much. So instead, candidates have to rely on the Chamber of Commerce and other big business groups for funding, which gives those groups a disproportionate influence over the political process.

If you don’t give to politicians, perhaps it’s time to reconsider that decision. Find a candidate you can support (even if it’s someone across the country) and send a few bucks, or a few hundred if you can afford it.

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4. Do Your Homework

Let’s vow together to be the people who don’t fall for urban legends and fake Facebook conspiracy memes in 2015.

It’s so easy to hit the “share” button or to be the first to retweet a juicy bit of gossip without checking out the veracity of the story. Ronald Reagan said, “It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.” Social media has made it increasingly possible for all of us to “know so many things that aren’t so,” whether we’re liberal or conservative. For the sake of all that’s decent, can we all work on taking a few minutes to verify some basic facts before passing along inflammatory stories on social media?

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5. Get Out of the Conservative Media Bubble Occasionally

How about reading Salon or Vanity Fair occasionally? Or mix things up and switch from Fox News to MSNBC once in a while? Sure, it will probably raise your blood pressure and make you want to throw things (please make sure the pets are safe!), but it’s important to hear what these folks are saying. Sometimes (as in the case of Vanity Fair, in my opinion) you’ll encounter good writing, even though you won’t always agree with the point of view. Certainly you’ll very often encounter stompy-footed demands for attention, sad cries for help, and a disproportionate amount of profanity. But the point is to get out of the echo chamber of people who mostly agree with you. Doing so will broaden your horizons and make you better equipped to defend your positions and debate the issues of the day in the public square because you’ll understand what the opposition thinks and says about you and about the issues.

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6. Check Your Grammar!

I admit, I can be a bit of a Grammar Nazi and nothing irks me more than when I see my fellow conservatives making simple spelling or grammar mistakes on social media. Who hasn’t seen something like this on Facebook?
WERE GOING TO LOOSE IN 2016 AND THERE NOT DOING ANYTHNG ABOUT IT!11!!!!!
I know, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point. Here’s a list of some of the most common grammar mistakes. Let’s all work on tightening up our messages and getting better about how we communicate our ideas, even when we’re really steamed about something and need to fire off an angry response right this minute!

3237951001_cbb302a6c4_b7. Strive for Balance in Your Life

Politics and events in the world and national news are important. But life can become depressing and myopic if we spend too much time thinking about such things and focusing on them. We should all strive for balance in our lives and make sure we’re not being consumed by a political cause or by events we can’t control. I’d venture a guess that many of us have family members who don’t get especially excited about politics and who would prefer to talk about other things. Thank goodness we have those people in our lives to keep us sane and to direct our attentions elsewhere so that we don’t become complete bores and spend our lives on things that are fleeting.

“We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Politics is an ever-changing landscape and at best, we can only make temporary changes. To be sure, there are important battles to be waged — the fight to protect religious liberty and the right to life for the unborn are at the top of my list. But it’s the “unseen things” — our relationship with God and how we respond to his commands — that  are eternal. Nothing in the political world is more important and so we should allocate our attentions and our affections accordingly.

Wishing you a blessed and happy 2015!