Advice for American conservatives? Only this. The Republican Party’s success depended on its becoming a popular party — that is, a party that was for the people against the governing elites. Half a century ago, it was a party of big business and old money, and it kept losing: it was in permanent opposition in both houses, and tended to win the presidency only when it fielded a non-partisan Ike-type candidate. Then it changed: it embraced localism, small government and states’ rights. It went from being a New England, preppy, country club party to being a Sun Belt, anti-Washington mass movement. And you know what? It started winning.
My worry is that, in recent years, the party has gone into reverse. It has become, as in pre-Goldwater days, the party of federal spending, budget deficits, external protectionism (the steel tariffs), overseas garrisons, the denial of states’ rights (the gay marriage amendment) and, latterly, bailouts and nationalizations.
I speak as someone who has a more uncomplicated loyalty to the GOP than to my own party, and I desperately want it to start winning again. But that means getting back to basics: to the basic idea that informed the U.S. Constitution, namely that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the people they affect.