What We Can Do
posted at 2:43 pm on October 28, 2009 by Doctor Zero
Those who are concerned about the current state of affairs in our government often ask what they can do, to help set things right. I wish it were as simple as following a ten-step program to American renewal, but the task ahead is truly formidable, and it will not be solved by a simple formula. We’ve been heading toward a cliff for a long time – Obama is stepping on the gas, but our course was set long before he was born. Correcting the problem will ultimately require reforms, such as a flat tax or term limits, that can only be enacted by compelling the political class to act against its own interests. Let’s be honest about how difficult it will be to achieve those goals… but let’s not allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking it’s impossible, either.
The key to success lies with the voters. Bring enough of them on board, and politicians who wish to remain in office will follow. It’s good to keep the pressure on the GOP and its distressingly clueless leadership, but we can only kick in the doors to those smoke-filled rooms if we have millions of voters behind us. I believe we should insist on closed primaries – and when I say “closed,” I don’t mean Newt Gingrich and a couple of party bosses choosing a candidate over drinks at the local Ruth’s Chris. I don’t think either party was terribly happy with the results of the open primaries in 2008. I can’t see any sense in allowing anyone but Republicans to select Republican candidates, and likewise for the Democrats.
I think conservatives are doing exactly the right thing by backing Doug Hoffman in New York. I really hope he wins, because he would work with Republicans and bring conservative ideas into their discussions, and perhaps run as a Republican for re-election: a conservative anti-virus introduced into the Republican bloodstream. Third-party insurgencies can be the right strategy for individual races, but the overall goal for conservatives should be regaining control of the Republican Party. Maybe that will prove to be impossible, and a serious third-party movement inevitable, but I just don’t think we have time to nurture a third party from the grassroots up. If we completely give up on the Republicans, we’re no longer talking about saving America from sailing off a cliff… we’re talking about rescuing survivors from the burning wreckage.
Even if Hoffman loses, we should make sure the GOP learns the correct lesson from the dismal campaign of the Republican candidate. Every computer at RNC headquarters should be using that picture of Scozzafava fumbling around in a sea of Hoffman signs as their desktop wallpaper.
Conservatives can insist on effective leadership for the Republican Party. I must admit I’ve grown disenchanted with Michael Steele. He’s not an unmitigated disaster – he gave one really nice speech, about six months ago, so he’s a mitigated disaster. We need some disaster relief. Popular support can propel a better candidate into the position. I’d love to see someone like Fred Thompson in that chair.
Most of the work for conservatives lies at the grassroots, building popular support. Every conservative should understand that he is a teacher, explaining the essential truths of liberty to a populace that has been mis-educated and propagandized for most of their lives. It is a mistake to belittle these voters, or pronounce them hopeless. A poor education does not make people stupid. The hallmarks of a good teacher are knowledge, patience, confidence, and the ability to see things from the perspective of the audience. The key to changing the perspective of a massive population lies in understanding where their current perspective originates, and shattering the lens of false belief they view their government through.
It is, sadly, not enough to point out that much of what the Democrats are doing is blatantly unconstitutional – that argument has inherent power only with those already sympathetic to the Right. Too many moderate voters would reply that forcing people to live without health care, or allowing the Earth to be spoiled by greedy businessmen, because of an old piece of paper written by dead white guys in powdered wigs is ridiculous. We have to go deeper, and teach them what we already understand: that the wisdom of the Constitution is timeless, and a just republic cannot exist without limits to government power. Sympathetic goals don’t make petulant demands for the surrender of our liberties any less offensive. No problem facing our society is improved by collectivist policies that restrain our creative energy, and reduce our wealth.
Conservatives spend a great deal of time complaining, justifiably, about the biased media. The only way to change the media is to make it feel that it must change, to retain an audience. The growing influence of alternative outlets like Fox News is having that effect, but it’s not a rapid process. A major turning point was reached when President Obama tried to exclude Fox from a meeting with the “pay czar,” and the other major networks refused to go along. Every step conservatives take to enhance the success of alternative media is a step in the right direction. Still, we should understand that the media of 2010 and 2012 will be substantially the same as it is today.
We should insist on political leadership that understands how to work with that media, using their hunger for attention and spectacle to over-ride their biases. It can be done. The Blatant Beast is defeated by telling it a story it cannot help repeating. Republicans should also be constantly aware of their razor-thin margin for error, and never allow themselves to believe they can “get away” with something just because a Democrat did. Those TV cameras are the headlights of a speeding truck, and we should not be placing deer in front of them. If the 2012 nominee is someone other than Sarah Palin, they would do well to study her travails in 2008, and her triumphs in 2009 – a one-year black-belt program in media jiu-jutsu. Another example worth studying is Andrew Breitbart’s canny decision to deploy those ACORN videos one at a time, which has prevented the media from forgetting about the story, and forced them to fight a slowly losing battle to ignore it.
There is one other thing conservatives can work on immediately, a mighty task that brave pioneers in the school choice and home-schooling movement have already begun: take back education from the Left. This requires a different strategy from bringing the media around, because the education establishment is a virtual monopoly: enforced by State power, funded by mandatory taxes, and dominated by the most doctrinaire and politically powerful union in the world. The public education system will not change itself in response to “competition,” because it has the government to protect it from its failures. (Both Big Media and the State would very much like to arrange a similar system for the media.)
Parents can take back education by getting involved with it. Be active and outspoken at your local public school. Demand accountability for outrages like politicized curricula and cult-of-personality sing-alongs. Challenge the teachers, and teach your children to challenge the teachers. So many of the great victories, in the early battles to reclaim our children from the Left, began with a brave and confident student who refused to stop asking questions… and a teacher who refused to provide answers. Take your local school board elections seriously. Find out what they’re not teaching your kids about America’s history and government, and fill in the blanks. If you conclude your local schools are beyond redemption, be aware of the large, enthusiastic network of parents who can show you how to escape from them.
Conservatives have been doing a lot of things right lately. The presidency of Barack Obama is an opportunity to highlight liberalism’s century-long record of absolute failure, and the insane expense of giving it one more chance to fail again. The American voter does not need to hear bitter “told you so” recriminations, or snide reminders of how foolish they were to fall for this garbage in the first place. They need answers. We have them. The most important thing for all of us to do, right now, is share them.