Who Is at Fault for Conservative Defeat?

We conservatives, of course. It is my contention that when you are beaten in a political fight, you usually deserve it. John Hawkins notes:

Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

The corollary to that statement here in the United States could be, “All that was necessary for the Democrats to triumph was for conservatives to do nothing.”

It’s fashionable to blame George W. Bush, the Republicans in Congress, and the out of touch, inside-the-beltway pundits for the ascendancy of Barack Obama and the left — and they certainly deserve the largest portion of the blame.

However, it’s worth taking the time to ask: what responsibility does the conservative movement — you, me, and all our conservative friends — have for this disaster?

Quite a bit actually.

We were too slow to challenge Republicans in D.C., including George Bush, when they veered from a conservative course. Yes, we complained, but not loudly enough and too late in the game.

We were also too complacent and too willing to stand pat on an out of date agenda. Consider the irony, for example, of conservatives using an income tax cut as a primary selling point for our domestic agenda when more than a third of the American public doesn’t pay income tax.

Along the same lines, we’ve been too content to advocate policies like the Fair Tax that couldn’t be gotten through Congress, or to merely poke holes in the Democratic agenda on issues like socialized medicine without truly pushing viable alternatives.

Conservatism needs to adapt to changed circumstances, that is for sure – we can’t go forward with the quiet dogmas of the past but must think anew and act anew. Conservatism has been, is and always will be the answer – but the applicability of conservatism changes as circumstances change. As a for-instance, we’ve won the tax battle – leftist Obama campaigned on a promise of tax cuts and hammered McCain very hard on the claim that his health care plan amounts to a tax increase. It is now time (and, indeed, has been time for years) for us to move beyond the mere debate over keeping taxes low and get into a debate on what should be taxed and when.

On and on down the conservative agenda, it is time to recast our efforts in light of the fact that we by and large won the battles of 20 years ago – we live in the economic and political house Reagan built for us and even the most ardent of liberal Democrats really propose no more than tinkering around the edges of it, plus socialized medicine. But we can bring the fight to them – provided we learn to be insurgent, and get fresh blood into our senior ranks, and propose bold, new initiatives to increase freedom, faith, family and prosperity.

I’m up for this debate about the future of conservatism, but I do issue one warning: let us not get into backbiting about who did what to whom. Such internecine battles only please our liberal opponents – clean slate, and lets start building a new conservatism for the 21st century.