The politics of entitlement reform may be debatable, but the math is not. The aging of the population and rising health care costs are together triggering explosive growth in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. If left unchecked, these programs will place a crushing burden on federal taxpayers, cripple states and stifle economic growth.

It isn’t moral to impose these problems on future generations. It isn’t right to cede ground to liberals and allow ever higher taxes to chase ever higher spending, while government takes on an increasingly intrusive role in people’s lives.

Conservatives cannot live in a bubble. We’re never going to realize a federal government with powers truly limited to those narrowly enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. But even if a reaffirmation of principles doesn’t entail advocating utopian political positions — such as scrapping the entire welfare state — conservatives shouldn’t allow their core beliefs be dictated by what may or may not improve the short-term prospects for Republicans. Conservatism is not a political strategy.