As a man who believes in the virtue of fundamental fairness, I am delighted that the United States of America will, come January, see its first African-American president. I was oddly moved by seeing Jesse Jackson’s tears in the Grant Park audience tonight. As much as I may dislike the man, as awful as he may be on so many levels, it must have been an incredible experience for him and seeing him overcome by emotion without a camera directly in his face weighed heavily on me. It was not so long ago, after all, that black men were denied the right to vote and, tonight, one was elected president of the United States. That alone is a testament to the freedoms and opportunity afforded by the United States of America and everything for which She stands.
As an American, however, I wish that president could have been someone else. My God, we elected a socialist tonight. My God, we elected a man who has done nothing to show that he actually likes this country, nonetheless has its best interests at heart.
Still strugging for words, looking to connect my head with my fingers, I find myself disheartened because, if tonight is an indication of the near future, my daughter will not grow up in the same America I did. I find myself disappointed that my fellow Americans were not able to see past the rhetoric, past the spin, past the cloud of Bush Derangement Syndrome enough to do the right thing yesterday. I find myself angry knowing that more could have been done to prevail, that it was a better-run campaign and not a better candidate which won this race. I’m embarrassed that the electorate freely elected a man who, even in his victory speech, said that American “cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers” and somehow managed to speak of humility while delivering a speech before more than a million people. Humility, as Charles Krauthammer later said, is not one of Obama’s strong points.
Yet, oddly, I find myself optimistic. Sure, I know full well that this loss will be blamed on Sarah Palin and the conservative movement as a whole, that news cycles for the next few days will focus on how the GOP needs to transmogrify itself into more of a big-tent party, that it was the religious right which lost this election for John McCain, ever concerned about their petty values and driven by their mindless faith in God. I also know, however, that this past evening’s loss in reality falls squarely on the shoulders of a party and campaign mechanism that was, just like we saw party-wide in 2006, somehow hesitant and afraid to fight hard from its own traditional principled foundation.
We can Monday-morning quarterback as much as we want. We can talk about the inevitable, below-the-fold piece in the New York Times commending John McCain for his “respectful” campaign, and how the very presence of that piece will run to the heart of what is wrong with the Republican party and what needs to be done to retake the Senate, the House, and the residence and offices at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Strangely enough, it is that inevitable battle within the party which has be so optimisic. The GOP has some ‘splainin to do, a real knock-down, drag out fight. The debate will be between (1) those who believe that moving the party to the center, that expanding the pie and building a bigger tent is the answer to the question posed tonight when America willingly elected a radical socialist to the presidency, and (2) those who believe firmly that America is a right-of-center nation and pandering to the center and left through La Raza events and cap-and-trade programs and the socialization of economic losses does nothing to benefit the GOP or the country as a whole.
I’m confident that the latter faction will prevail, that actual conservatives like Bobby Jindal and Mike Pence and Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin and Eric Cantor and Jim DeMint will be able to guide the conservative movement to, once again, the forefront of American politics by aggresively stressing and eloquently articulating the merits of fiscal conservatism, of smaller government, of free market principles, of a strong national defense and solid family values. Aided by the disastrous effects Obama’s policies are sure to have on the economy, on our security and more, the process may not take as long as originally thought.
Six years, a good friend of mine said tonight, until we retake Congress. I think it will be less.
As corny as it may sound, it IS always darkest before the dawn. From Johnson came Nixon, from Jimmy Carter came Ronald Reagan. Tomorrow and the next day, the news cycles will surely not be easy and the pundits will be nothing short of ruthless — but rest assured that news of the death of conservatism has been greatly exaggerated.
What these pundits, critics and know-it-all types fail to understand is that conservatism is bigger than John McCain, bigger than Grant Park, bigger than 2008. Conservatism wasn’t invented by Reagan, by Barry Goldwater, Theodore Roosevelt or anyone else. Conservatism is not a trend, not a fashion or a theory designed for fleeting consideration before fading into fodder for books forever doomed to collect dust on the shelves of the elites. Yes, it will be written off tomorrow as out-of-touch, as antiquated, as too rooted in religion and the free market, but conservatism has been written off before — it was written off in 1976 after the disappointment of Gerald Ford and Bob Dole; it was written off in 1992 after Democrats obtained control of the House, Senate and the White House; it was written off again in 1996 after Bob Dole’s anticlimactic presidential run.
Barack Obama’s victory a few hours ago was a turning point, a sea change pending for the Republican party as a direct result of the so-called “Big Tent” approach to party politics, a widely-inclusive but short-sighted approach which blurred the lines of the basic tenets of conservatism — strong national defense and foreign policy, responsible and pro-growth fiscal policy, rich and grounded family and moral values. The more people, the more factions and more groups the GOP tried to cram into the left side of the Big Tent, the more those on the right side, the ones that had been there from the start and the ones who can deliver America to prosperity and keep Her there, were pushed out into a deluge of apathy and spite.
In these upcoming news cycles, the debate among those on the political left and right will surely include analysis of the relevance of conservatives and conservatism. If conservatives are so plentiful and so powerful, they’ll ask, why wasn’t it Barack Obama who was delivering the concession speech, why isn’t it Cindy McCain measuring the drapes and preparing for her White House Christmas Special? Over the next few months, the pundits and pinheads will put forth the proposition that the country as a whole is moving to the left at a rapid pace. Look at the turnout numbers in the primaries, they’ll say, pointing to the popular vote count discrepancy between democrats and republicans. Look at the general election, they’ll maintain, pointing to numbers which show that Obama won by a larger margin than any democrat since Lyndon Johnson.
Don’t believe what you hear. Don’t let the same bitterness seen in so many liberals, that nasty venom and vitriol so artfully concealed behind empty smiles and yoga pants and gritty spirulina smoothies, don’t let it seep into your daily lives. Don’t allow it to happen. The core principles of conservatism–starting with a limited central government–are the very principles on which America was founded and, so long as we survive the next four years, those principles will be the reason that the party, and America as a whole, emerge stronger than ever.
Remember that the movement transcends the candidate. Remember that the principles transcend the election.
Keep your chin up, America — Bobby Jindal is headed to Iowa next month.