If Republicans in Congress lack the nerve to stand up to President Obama, or the moxie to do so effectively, all other admirable efforts could end up being for naught. The federal nanny state could be so expanded, its tentacles could become so much more deeply embedded in the fabric of American life, that it would prove almost impossible for the next administration, however well-intentioned, to extricate us from it. The fiscal and monetary crisis could become so overwhelming that the soundest policies would be too little, too late. The American military could be so weakened, and our credibility abroad so damaged, that the most determined administration taking over four years from now would find it almost impossible to restore peace and advance freedom in a world that has spun out of control.

It may be that resistance is less edifying than reform. It’s perhaps true that resistance is less intellectually stimulating than devising remedies. It could well be the case that resistance is less inspiring than reviving a party or rebuilding a movement. And there may well be occasions where emergencies and the national interest will call us to work with the president. But the chief duty for Republicans over the next four years will be resistance.

Now all this talk of resistance may sound a bit negative, even mean. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote, “There is always a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact.”