An open letter to the weeping conservative

Look, it’s not the end of the world, or America, or really much of anything. In fact, it could become the beginning of something. Here are eight reasons you should take heart from what you consider last night’s loss.

1. Congressional Majorities: Understand the bullet you dodged. The president’s party tends to lose seats in midterm elections. Had Romney won—especially as inflation becomes more apparent, and likely coupled with continued joblessness—you would have kissed your Republican House majority goodbye. Now you are in position to strengthen that majority, and retake the Senate as well. Some of them might be actual conservatives.

2. Hillary: Her campaign starts today. Mitt Romney, presiding over four years of likely malaise, is her dream scenario. Now she’ll have to convince American voters that she will bring something fresh to what they will have come to associate with her party—scandal, declining international respect, and economic failure. The party in power tends not to produce new ideas and slogans, it tends to collapse on itself in venality. That gives her a much tougher row to hoe—especially as the Obama people try to hang Benghazi around her neck.

3. Remember the States?: You are a group that claims to believe in local decision-making, though nobody would know from the education and crime policies your political allies have advanced in Washington. Your party will find itself allying with states again, which will become the natural loci of opposition to top-down Washington policies. This will be an opportunity to get re-invested in federalism. Because, you know, the Founders and Constitution and stuff.

4. Education Reform: John Adams wrote that this country’s liberty cannot survive without a people who have wisdom, knowledge, and virtue. This is the American deficit you need to worry about. You want to know why the Republican Party refuses to nominate anyone who actually reflects your principles? Because the liberal vision fits on a bumper sticker, and yours requires an understanding of economics and the nature of man.

I’m going to tell you something at which you will nod in agreement, but you need to start acting as if you actually believe it. There is no changing this country without first changing its schools. We currently sling—just using national averages here—about $300,000 at every public school classroom, and yet we continue to decline in science and math, and reading comprehension has yet to come out of its 1970’s slump.

And the thing is, more competition won’t fix the problem. We have forgotten how to teach. We have churned out content-free curricula, and abandoned the training of teachers to education academics who have no practical skill, and now we tell ourselves the solution is pay-for-performance. Conservatives used to understand that markets can’t fix everything. You need to relearn that lesson in the education field, because until you fix this problem, the rest of your efforts will be in vain.

5. Accountability: Every American president makes decisions that cost innocents their lives, but this administration has been callously negligent in that regard, and then shamelessly willing to conceal its complicity. American servicemen in Benghazi left unprotected. Mexican teenagers in Juarez, slaughtered at a birthday party with firearms from the Fast and Furious operation. An American boy searching for his father in Yemen, murdered by a drone strike. The one group not protected by new health care regulations—infants who survive botched abortions.

It’s true that journalists have failed to cover these tragedies with the same zeal they would apply to a Republican administration, but it’s also true that most presidents see their scandalous behaviors receive greater scrutiny in a second term. If you’re skeptical, consider this hard political reality: there’s no way Hillary Clinton is taking the blame for Benghazi.

Add to these scandals the continuing cronyism that characterizes this administration’s approach to everything from energy policy to the auto industry bailout, and eventually even the New York Times will start paying attention. It’s too juicy, and their guy won’t be running for office again, so none of them need to worry that they’ll inadvertently sabotage moving forward with hope and change by breaking a story.

6. The Coming Correction: The truth we have refused to acknowledge for five years is that hurling money at inherently flawed institutions—be they banks with perverse incentives or car companies making crummy products—will only encourage bad behavior. Now we have the easy money throttle fully pressed, we’ve taken on sixteen trillion dollars in national debt, and all of it to forestall pain that we could have gotten through by now, if we’d just faced the music like adults.

A reckoning is coming, and we all know it. Conservatives with the long view should realize the advantage in having someone from the party most willing to expand government at the helm when that happens. You want another Reagan, and I submit to you that you don’t get a Reagan without a Carter.

7. Time in the Wilderness: But the thing is, you’re not going to get another Reagan if you don’t discover an animating principle to guide you. You nominated Mitt Romney—a decent family guy who can barely make a cogent statement about the U.S. Constitution, and who championed in Massachusetts a forerunner of your most hated Obama domestic policy. If you want polls and lawyers and lobbyists to determine your future, then he is your man.

Before Romney, you nominated John McCain, mistaking his great physical courage for leadership. You thought tossing Sarah Palin into the mix would make for a winning combination. Think on that for a moment. Ponder the desperation it reflects. Before McCain, you aligned yourself to George W. Bush, an earnest and patriotic American who piled on the very regulations you claim to despise, mistook hubristic nation-building for war, and who, when the economic crisis hit, played this disastrous spend-our-way-to-renewed-prosperity gambit when he had nothing to lose by sticking to the conservative principles he espoused.

Now you’re flirting with Gingrich again. Who else do you want to bring back into the fold? Ralph Reed? Jack Abramoff? The truth is that you have become so obsessed with stopping the other guys that you have been willing, time and again, to align yourselves with fools and jackals.

So now you have four years. Spend at least a little of it getting back to your principles.

8. Existential Debates: Conservatives have become the little boy who cried wolf. Remember when Bob Tyrrell was scurrying around Arkansas, trying to prove that the Clintons were murderous, drug-smuggling overlords? Remember the fear that Clinton was secretly a socialist? Remember how we laugh and laugh about that now, and secretly wish he could run for office again?

Now you face an administration that cannot name a problem that the federal government should not have a hand in solving. It nationalized companies. It laid the groundwork for the eventual nationalization of the entire health care industry. It cripples businesses and then rushes to their rescue with subsidies.

And the thing is, voters like that. Bill Clinton had to go on national television and proclaim that the era of big government is over. Barack Obama’s reelection campaign consisted of listing government programs, and demonizing his opponent for wanting to rein them in. And he won, despite sitting on a federal debt that boggles the mind.

There’s no more room for Republicans to emulate Bob Dole and Arlen Specter. There’s no money left. You can no longer support, conservatives, a party that in practice wants everything its opponents want, just at 80 percent of the price. If your conservatism is going to mean something, then you have to start making the case, boldly and without apology, for the complete restructuring of entitlement programs, and for elimination of layers of regulation. Not with vague, Romney-esque hand-waving, but with specifics.

This is a good thing, because it treats voters like adults. Which means that maybe more of them will start acting like it. And if not, at least you went down standing for something.


  1. Steve

    Unfortunately, pretty much all of the 8 points are irrelevant:
    Pt 1: Obama’s agenda is on auto pilot from previously passed legislation – house majority doesn’t matter.
    Pt 2: Hillary’s 70 in 2016 – not much happening there.
    Pt 3: You can’t move to a state where an increasing federal reach won’t be felt.
    Pt. 4:Unions run the schools – don’t look for reform there.
    Pt. 5:Accountability is supposed to be a function of a free press – which is in the tank for liberals
    Pt. 6:It’s like arguing that changing the capatain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg would have saved the ship.
    Pt. 7: The wilderness keeps getting thicker, and I see no one who can see the forest for the trees.
    Pt. 8:You can’t have an existential arguement wth a group of people who just want their Obamaphone.

  2. Rene

    I agree with most of this! One thing with Changing the Educational system. If you want teachers to be able to teach, you’re going to have to give them the time to teach, instead of playing nurse, mom to every kid that walks into their classroom. Parents have got to invest their time into their kids instead of passing them off to someone else to raise. The schools and the teachers, simply don’t have the time to teach and raise over 30 children in their classrooms.
    When I first started teaching kids knew their parents would be checking up on them and whether they were doing what they needed to do in school.
    By the time I had retired(over 12 yrs ago) at a very early age, Everyone had an excuse, the parents had excuses, the students had excuses and nobody wanted to take responsibility for themselves!! Teachers can’t teach when they are having to fight all of that stuff.

    Granted there are many things that teachers need to do differently and to change the ways they teach in order to get the learning back into the classroom, but the REAL CHANGE NEEDS TO START IN THE HOME WITH THE PARENTS!! I’m sorry, but socio-economic backgrounds do not interfere with a parent taking responsibility for their children. That is just an excuse.
    My family went from being a very well to do home, to being a poor one parents home with a mother who had to work 2 jobs, take continuing education courses and raise 5 kids on her own, due to a deadbeat abusive father. But, boy we all towed the line in keeping the house in order and were in big trouble if we didn’t keep up our school work. We all made it through school with a tough economic background with Straight A’s, 1-valedictorian, 1-Salutatorian, and 4-top ten percent of the class. It didn’t just come easy to several of us in the family. My brother was a genius, the rest of us had to work our butts off to make the grades.
    I probably had to work the hardest, as I was an undiagnosed ADHD and Dyslexic student that did not get diagnosed until Junior year in College.
    But, I never made excuses, nor did my parent. I just simply took responsibility for myself and my mother made sure that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.

    Teachers simply do not have time to coddle, deal with students that don’t care and parents who don’t think they have any responsibility what-so-ever in their child’s education.

    Like I said, I worked with many great teachers, but I also worked with some very poor teachers. The problem that needs to be solved with that is the Unions!! All someone has to do to have a job for life in teaching is to do a so-so job their first 2-3 years of teaching and then it’s next to impossible to get rid of them if they do not perform their job. That’s got to stop!!! The job should not be guaranteed unless the person is doing their job, just like most professions out there.

    Thanks for your article and thanks for letting me do a little ranting. Things must change on all sides of this issue.


  3. Janet McIndoe

    Your blog today really hits home on all points and actually improved my mood this morning! Thank you for all of the work you are doing and especially so in the education field. Keep up the good work. Sincerely, Janet

  4. ruth

    I like this. Not so sure about #7 but then I probably need to find out what “animating principle is”. Romney doesn’t know the constitution? I doubt that. He’s just not about the rhetoric of it. I’d rather give the country into the hands of a proven business leader with moral values than an idealogue who is all about the constitution. The constitution is over-rated. Really. Canada doesn’t have one that is agreed upon/signed by all provinces. The country manages quite well and its’ citizens haven’t a clue what the consitution says.

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