Saturday, February 24, 2007

Will Conservatives Learn to Prioritize?

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform , wrote an op-ed piece recently titled, What Is to Be Done for Conservatives’ Future, where he discusses what Conservatives need to do in order to advance their agenda in the wake of last fall’s resounding election defeat for the Republican party. In it, he advises:

Conservatism must avoid learning the wrong lessons from 2006. Maybe 10 congressmen and Senators lost due to sui generis personal problems: e-mailing pages, throttling mistresses, breaking the law. The rest fell to the tsunami of unhappiness with the seemingly unending occupation of Iraq.

No Republican lost because he or she was for lower taxes, or pro-second amendment, or committed to parental rights in education, or for their commitment to property rights or abolishing the death tax.

Two lessons: No more throttling mistresses or selling earmarks. And the occupation of Iraq needs to be in the rearview mirror in 2008, not the windshield.

Well, setting aside the fact the Republican party isn’t the least bit “conservative” when you look at the facts, I do recognize that most people think that Republicans are the party of Conservativism. And given that perception, I understand how Conservatives might be wondering whether small government is even viable anymore.

However, when I look around, I have to wonder who Norquist thinks he is talking to. Sure, I applaud him for trying to wake up Conservatives, and get them to focus on what’s important. But from where I stand, he is a lone cry in the wilderness here. Everytime I flip on Limbaugh, Hannity, and Boortz (yes, Boortz is, despite what he may say, a Conservative), they routinely persist in their warmongering. When I talk to the average Conservative on the street, they are still firmly dogmatic about “supporting the troops”, and invading every county that George W. tells them is a threat, real or imagined. Frankly, they just don’t get that their party lost because the rest of America is getting tired of Iraq, and the war. They continue to cling to their faith in W’s plan that bombing and killing is the way to go. That is the foremost issue on their minds.

Meanwhile, the better ideas of Conservatives – cutting government, protecting gun rights, and such – fall by the wayside. As long as “Conservatives” cling to this killing fetish of theirs, the rest of America will have a hard time giving their ideas any serious consideration.

The irony is that I've always heard the criticism that libertarians are out of touch with what people want, because we want to talk about whats important to us, rather than whats important to voters. They claim that we have a fetish for obscure things like privatizing the roads, or unpopular things like drug legalization, when we would be more successful sticking to "safer" positions, like cutting taxes. The charge is that we are so politically deaf, we don't know how to prioritize effectively, and therefore lose credibility. But who is losing sight of priorities, here? Who are the ones who want to push what's important to them, even though most voters have rejected the excesses of that agenda?

Unless Conservatives can learn to prioritize, small government, it would seem, is going to be the biggest casualty to their bloodlust.


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