When I started America’s Right one year ago today, I did so with a tongue-in-cheek endorsement of former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson who, only a few months beforehand, had declared that he was seeking the GOP nomination for president of the United States. Of course, it would have helped if Fred actually had heard his own announcement and exhibited a little more motivation, but that’s neither here nor there.
It was after the massacre at Virginia Tech, when Thompson wrote a fantastic commentary for Townhall on the merits of concealed carry, that I first started paying attention to the former senator. Thanks to my press credentials, I had the opportunity to see him speak a few months later at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council; the real star of the show that day was Mike Huckabee–who walked unrecognized through the hotel lobby and began his speech with obligatory applause only to finish to a standing ovation–but Thompson delivered a long and focused and excellent speech on the Jeffersonian attitude toward federalism. Much of the crowd yawned in an exhibition of anti-climatic indifference, as they were expecting a stump speech; I loved it.
See, when I was in college in eastern central Alabama, I was perhaps one of the only liberal Democrats on campus. I remember glancing, with a wary eye, at the folding table set up by the sport-jacketed Auburn University College Republicans at various events, instead focusing my attention on more important issues than politics, such as football, beer and girls – but not necessarily in that order.
My transformation–what I call my Fosburian leap rightward–did not begin until the end of my college days when, during my final semester, I was working for a small daily newspaper in Seneca, South Carolina. Seneca, of course, is home to then congressman and now Sen. Lindsay Graham who, despite his apparent disdain for the “loud folks” (translation: conservatives who refuse to abandon conservatism in favor of political expedience) who countermanded his and John McCain’s attitude toward illegal immigration, was extremely gracious in my limited dealings with him. While working for the newspaper, I had the opportunity to cover the Republican primary and a stop made by George W. Bush, John McCain, Alan Keyes and more at nearby Clemson University, which I covered as part of my Pickens County beat. I remember sitting through a taping of Hardball at the university, and marveling at how effusive Chris Matthews was and how radically right-wing McCain seemed to be — I think at the time I said to Mo Rocca, there covering the campaigns for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, that I hoped McCain “never had his fingers on the button.”
It wasn’t until later that year, when I read Bias, the fantastic assessment of the mainstream press by former CBS correspondent Bernard Goldberg, that I was able to extract myself from the hypnotic control of the mainstream media and assess political ideology and thought for myself rather than have the agenda set for me. After that point, suddenly aware of what had been going on under my nose for so long, I slowly but surely found that my values, my goals, my feelings, my perspective, worldview and ideology, unencumbered by those who previously told me what and how to think, more closely resembled those espoused by the conservative movement. Over the following four years, I went from a blue-washed blank slate who blindly but vocally supported Al Gore and Joe Lieberman to a guy who preferred Special Report over Sportscenter, a guy who questioned everything he read and learned, a guy who pulled the lever for George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004. Since then, the final aspects of my ideology have fallen into place – shortly after my wife became pregnant and right after a convenience store near my house was robbed at gunpoint minutes after I had left, I bought my first firearm and learned how to effectively use it; when my daughter was born nearly six weeks early and I saw the other children in the neo-natal intensive care unit, some as small as a soda can but just as alert as a three-week-old, I wondered how I could have ever supported the pro-abortion movement in the first place. Of course, in the interest of full disclosure again now even though I’ve mentioned it before on these pages, I do support gay rights – but have a problem with the “marriage” term being thrown around as anything but a sacrament. Still, it was a complete sea change, and it was brought about because I was finally free from the ideological shackes of the agenda-setting mainstream press.
Finally, on this day last year, America’s Right was born. I came up with the name while doing dishes after Christmas dinner a few weeks prior–it was a triple entendre, and I was delighted that the domain was available–and finally reached the point where I felt bad expressing my frustrations and opinions to the same people (who were likely tired of it as well) and decided that I needed an outlet. That day, eight people checked out the site. Two of them were me, once at work and once at home.
At the risk of coming off as completely selfish and egocentric, the reason I wanted to once again share my own story, my own background, is because I firmly believe that my own ideological transmogrification is not unique but rather is indicative of similar transitions made by so many others, but also provides a little insight into my overall goals for this Web site. Before my sea change, I thought the way I did because I didn’t know enough not to. I found solace in big government because I lacked personal responsibility and because I knew nothing of the merits of the free market or the ills of the nanny state. I thought for sure that guns were bad, that they were dangerous, that they were the cause of so many problems and why-can’t-we-melt-them-down-and-why-do-we-need-them-anyway-and-what-if-we-could-all-go-back-to-swords-and-chain-mail because I had never fired one, because I had never before been responsible for the safety and security of a wife and child, because I had never read the intentions of our nation’s founders behind the Second Amendment. In those days, I was who I was and thought how I did because I had never sat down and read—actually read—the United States Constitution; now, I carry around a tattered copy in my back pocket.
I honestly feel as though, outside of academia and liberal enclaves such as Berkeley, California and Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, a fair amount of left-leaning Americans are like I once was, leaning left out of indifference or for reasons unknown. If you ask the vast majority of people on all sides of the political spectrum about how they manage their own finances, I believe you’ll find that most employ–or at least realize the merits of–many aspects of fiscal conservatism, and few of them know it. If you ask any number of people whether or not we should befriend those who dream of our destruction in an attempt to defuse their radical ideology, I believe that most will say no. In not so many words, they’ll tell you that detente is ridiculous.
That’s why, over and over again, I insist that a few good things will likely come out of this election. First, as I mentioned before, I believe that the vast majority of Americans adhere to conservative principles in their own lives without even knowing it. Second, it has become increasingly apparent that Americans are not happy with the way they’re living now, the sacrifices they choose to or not to make, the direction in which they feel this country is headed. They don’t trust their elected officials, and for the most part they shouldn’t. That disenfranchisement, that skepticism toward the people and processes which have put our nation in this current situation, is what led so many Americans to succumb hook, line and sinker for Barack Obama’s superficial mantra of “change.” That blind hope for a brighter future, that disdain for the current fixtures of party politics, was unfortunately aligned with a culture that finds solace in government, a society that, fueled by outside influences which embrace entitlement and scoff at self-reliance, would rather hold out their hand than roll up their sleeve.
That disenfranchisement, here in the age of Barack Obama and a Washington, D.C. controlled by Democrats, could be a good thing for America. It shows that the American people are a largely blue-washed blank slate just as I was, and if the Republican party is able to adequately convey and articulate the merits of conservatism and explain not only how they’ve already unwittingly accepted those values and foundations but also how the widespread acceptance and practice of conservative principles on Capitol Hill and beyond could benefit us all, the GOP could find themselves with a mandate sustainable so long as they practice what they preach and refuse to repeat the mistakes of the past six years.
The Republican Party must revert to first principles, conservative principles, and must in turn show people that conservatism does not distinguish between black and white and does not benefit either rich or poor, that exponentially increased government involvement in their daily lives translates into an increased tax burden and stifled freedom. Such a revitalization of the party can only be done through a complete redefinition of the methods and mechanisms through which the GOP disseminates its message. It can only be done by cutting away the old growth and making room for the new. Barack Obama revolutionized the political ground game in this last election. He turned every teenager and college student’s iPhone into a campaign office telephone bank while, on the other side, my phone didn’t ring with Rudy Giuliani’s tired, robotic plea for my vote here in Pennsylvania until ten minutes before polls closed. Our job, the responsibility of those removed from the halls of Capitol Hill and those still strong with the call from the cubicles on Main Street, is to make Barack Obama’s campaign in 2012 look by comparison like the John McCain campaign of 2008 – tired, cumbersome, content.
In the meantime, you and I must do our part. This sense of entitlement must be exchanged for a sense of duty. Apathy must be transformed into vigilance. Procrastination must succumb to action. We simply cannot trust that the Republicans on Capitol Hill will understand, on their own, that conservative Republicans win elections while moderate Republicans lose; so we must remind them.
Get informed. Get involved. Get vocal.
At the water cooler, instead of striking up conversation about your city’s new second baseman or how Oprah Winfrey looks like she dropped a few pounds, try talking about reckless and overt government waste and why [insert industry here] neither needs nor deserves a federal bailout. Talk to your children about what they’re learning in school, what they’re hearing from their friends, what they’re seeing on television, and ensure that those messages comport with your own values. Shake a soldier’s hand. Put down that issue of People and pick up our Constitution. Pledge your allegiance and your attention to America instead of American Idol. Take the latest John Grisham or Stephen King novel off of your nightstand, replace it with something by David McCullough or, God forbid, a civics textbook. Read Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, read Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor, and pass them along to your friends and family. Renew the American spirit in yourself, and spread that enthusiasm to others.
Explain to anyone willing to listen why conservatism works, and why the alternatives do not. Show them how to recognize socialism when they see it. Enlighten others why a low tax burden and minimal governmental regulation fosters economic growth, how underestimating and turning a blind eye to the permeation of radical Islamic thought has hurt Europe and the United Kingdom, and how we can stop it here. Through an understanding of how illegal immigration adversely affects our healthcare system, our economy, our national security and more, appreciate our need for vigorous enforcement of immigration laws already on the books, and for secure borders to the north and south. Know your 17 enumerated powers in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, and understand why judicial activism, combined with the rising tide of globalism and political correctness could do lasting damage to America and American sovereignty.
As Americans, we have all been tasked with ensuring that the United States of America remains a superpower among nations and the last great bastion of hope, freedom, democracy and opportunity on planet Earth. Let’s take responsibility and demand success.
On a personal note, thank you for being here. Thank you for reading, thank you for dissenting, thank you for forcing me to elevate my own thought process, and thank you for helping me foment my own ideology.