Stop Preaching to the Choir

In an overture that sets the tone for the rest of the document, the co-chairs of the report call out Republicans for being the weird guy on the bus mumbling to nobody in particular: “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.” They also call for a touchier, feelier GOP: “Instead of driving around in circles on an ideological cul-de-sac, we need a Party whose brand of conservatism invites and inspires new people to visit us. We need to remain America’s conservative alternative to big-government, redistribution-to-extremes liberalism, while building a route into our Party that a non-traditional Republican will want to travel. Our standard should not be universal purity; it should be a more welcoming conservatism.”

As much as you’re going to groan and roll your eyes and ask me just where the hell I think “compassionate conservatism” got us, there is a lot of truth to this. Too many conservatives and Republicans operate under the assumption that the United States is still (or ever was) big-C Conservative. It might still be small-c conservative, but that’s not the same thing when the status quo is the amoebic expansion of the state. We have to prepare ourselves for the possibility that there simply are not, at this time, enough big-C Conservatives to support a Conservative majority party. You can respond to that by watering down conservatism (boo), or by winning converts (hooray). But winning converts is not the same as trying to persuade an enduring silent Conservative majority who just need to be reminded of what they already believe. Conversion requires explicitly different arguments than we use with the choir.