It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! -- Abraham Lincoln, 'Address Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin' (September 30, 1859)
At the Claremont Institute function on Nov. 1, some of my friends asked me what our plan was for Wednesday, after we had been kicked out of office. As a conservative-libertarian, I chuckled. We've been out of government for quite a long time, but still, it got me thinking. (That, and a healthy reading of The Prince.)
In order for the Republicans to regain their position in government, they must do several things. First and foremost is to call Obama on his promise of bipartisanship. He has said that he will meet without preconditions with America's enemies, and so, a fitting first step would be to have him meet with his political adversaries on what they both hope to achieve during his administration. He promised Republicans in his administration, which Republicans did he want? If he picks RINOs, we should call him on it. Republicans should obstruct every new spending measure he seeks to achieve in the first 100 days.
Delaying will allow the American people time to get to know a President Obama and if history is any indication, familiarity breeds contempt. Those who are the most effective at countering Obama can come from any walk of life -- business, entertainment, and government. The person who is the most effective at running a shadow government against Obama ought to become our person in 2012, lest we remain outside of government. If Obama is The One, we must fund the person who counters him in every possible manner. Begin the search!
Many of us will be tempted to succumb to the promise of Obama, to say as John McCain does, that he is our president now, but to do so would be mistaken. The Left was able to defeat the Bush legacy by never accepting him as the rightfully ruler of us all. We must take their tactics and apply them to our principles.
Republicans can take some happy in the fact that, to quote Professor Pitney, the government "cupboard is bare." As he put it in The San Fransisco Chronicle,
But Republicans will be wrong to think that their political salvation lies in religious conservatism.
John Pitney Jr., a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, said the most important question posed during this year's presidential debates was by CBS's Bob Schieffer when he asked Obama and GOP Sen. John McCain which of their plans they would forego because of the heavy spending tied to the financial crisis.
"Both of them said they would not have to postpone or scale back their promises, and they were- both fibbing," Pitney said. Now that he's president-elect, Obama will face the reality that most new spending will add to the nation's growing debt. "The cupboard is bare," Pitney said.
After the victory against homosexual marriage with the passage of Proposition 8, social conservatives may think they can translate social ballot initiatives to socially conservative congressman. They cannot win on the social issues alone. If history is any indication, socially conservative measures seem to pass best when the economy is at its worst.
Professor Pitney is right when he said to the Dallas Morning News, that
"As far as social conservatives go, the party can't abandon that because they're an important part of the base but that can't be the headline, not the sole basis of the party's appeal."
This is a warning and a recrimination against the kind of Mike Huckabee politics of spending on socially conservative goals.
Professor Pitney was quoted today at National Review Online on how the Republicans got to where they are. He wrote,
... Republicans are hardly blameless. Fourteen years ago, they took control of Congress on the strength of their ideas. Over time, though, they put the retention of power ahead of the advancement of principle. They squeezed campaign contributions from interest groups while they neglected the grassroots donors who believed in conservative ideals. They abandoned belief money in order to get access money, and they ended up with neither.
If they want to reconnect with their supporters, they should spend less time at the Capitol Hill Club and more time at Sam’s Club.
His point is his well-taken about Republicanism abandoning the grass roots. Any successful Republican party needs a back bench from which to organize its new thinkers. It needs to constantly be churning, debating, and discussing how best to bring about political coalitions that are grounded in an understanding of natural rights.
But the Sam's Club Republican is a concoction, a mythical creature that will lead us down the road toward economic populism that promises more goodies to a middle class whose sense of need knows neither shame, nor limit.
The essence of the debate is to offer people the means of empowering themselves, while simultaneously argue the fairness points with the Left. Politics is a discussion of justice and so, we must constantly critique their implicit assumptions. Why is progressive taxation fair, anyways? Why should the "rich" pay more taxes? Why not a flat tax? Why is this particular program effective? Why are still more and more entitlements the future?
To ask these questions is to already put us a step forward on the path to recovery. As to govern only for self-preservation is to be a slave to polls, instead of the servant of principles.
Harvey Mansfield is right when he says that without liberalism, there would be no conservatism and so we should use the opportunity that Obama gives us to define ourselves against him. If we are successful at branding him the way we like, we can win the debate in the public consciousness before it has occurred.
To friends and enemies alike, don't expect me to be down in the dumps about the election. Yesterday was for despair; today is for planning; tomorrow is for celebrating.
If you take the view that I do -- that so much of what the Left wants is fundamentally against nature -- you can do no other but begin the lon. From humble origins or great defeats, the next great battles are planned. Who knows from where the next great statesman hails?