May 21, 2014

Refining the small government movement

The best approach: Defend aggressively, advance slowly.

Back in 2011, I commented on a Hot Air article about the Conservative party in Canada and their chances of winning elections but the focus of my comment was more about how Canadian conservatives are not less conservative than those in America, we are simply faced with a different reality.  But it's one that provides a lesson on how to move America back to the right, and in retrospect, one that requires a little additional nuance to it. As I wrote in response to Ed Morrissey's point about Canadian conservatives being less so than our American counterparts;
The conservative party of Canada is far less of a center-left party than you suggest. While it is not currently conservative in the sense of American conservatism, it’s still a center-right party. The way it governs is affected by the country as a whole. The conservative government is hampered by decades of liberalism and socialism, so moving the country back to the right will take considerable time. The country fears conservatives as being radicals and Prime Minister Harper has had to temper his lower taxes, stronger national defense, pro-business views to suit what is still a center-left country that is slowly testing the waters with a conservative government (three elections later).

Harper’s prudence isn’t as exciting as Reagan or Thatcher in a full on charge to the right, but it’s the smartest approach in a country ready to run back to the liberals at what it regards as the slightest hint of radical conservatism...
In short - in Canada we have had to take baby steps back towards the right, not giant leaps. Our electorate needed to learn to be comfortable with the positives of conservatism and will only eschew the liberal rhetoric about us over time. Canada is now more comfortable with a conservative government than it was in 2011. The same logic holds true in the United States. As I've written about many times, Democrats and their progressive ilk have successfully pushed the U.S. to the left over the course of decades by moving the ball slowly, while occasionally taking advantage of a crisis to move the ball a lot more all at once. That's because they know, as Rush Limbaugh has often pointed out, that if they were up front about their true intentions, voters would balk en masse.

That seemed true until the current president bought into his own hype and decided that the country was fully behind him on the aggressive march to the left. You see how that's worked for him. His re-election was arguably an incumbent's advantage win. He has met with growing resistance and weaker job approval year over year. That's because Americans want change to be managed, not a headlong, ill-planned plunge into something new.

As many have argued - an aggressive refutation and loud opposition to the progressive liberal agenda is definitely necessary. But if the GOP wins in the midterms and wins the next presidency, should they engage in a headlong plunge back to the right, or manage the walk back and advancing the agenda in a smart, organized and palatable way? Obviously that's a bit of a rhetorical question.

The lessons of Canada and of Obama's leftward plunge apply. Replacing an extremely liberal agenda with a very conservative one will accomplish two things - a lurch of change that will be as mismanaged as Obamacare, and a knee-jerk reaction from voters wiling to test the waters of conservatism.

That's an unfortunate situation since the country clearly needs to be brought back to smaller government, fiscal conservatism, non-interventionist courts, American exceptionalism etc. in a big, big way. Obama has slid and/or allowed the nation to slide into a disgusting malaise of lowered respect, lowered expectations and a dead end, debt-riddled future without a future.

But with so much to accomplish, in order to govern effectively, there is a need to prioritize. That in itself will help manage the return to the right and make it a more orderly change. The best way to prioritize what needs to be done is to look at the low hanging fruit first - where there is major agreement on the right, indicates itself as a good place to start. For example, rolling back Obamacare is an easier sell on the right than pretty much any social issue or an issue of libertarian smaller military vs. conservative defense hawks.

With each issue tackled, there is a need to move cautiously and intelligently forward. A simple repeal might be something most every conservative can agree upon, but it is way to easy for the liberal media to frame as bringing America backwards. Armed with Congressional Budget Office proof, the GOP could move forward with an intelligent mix of their dozens of proposals that the Democrats and media ignored while claiming the GOP had no plan. The message - we are not returning to the status quo, we are moving forward but in a different direction than the previous president with ideas that are more cost effective, will help more people, offer more alternatives to people and be simpler to understand.

Each area will eventually snowball and it will give people a chance to adjust as it grows its own momentum. That's what Obama has been trying to do with all of the delays to Obamacare. The difference is that the president is attempting to hide the true cost, the true implications, from voters. The GOP will necessarily have to be up front about their real goals, more choice, and lowered costs. The approach of slow and steady is a necessary evil for America.

Because charging headlong never works. I know, I've posted this before, but it's still funny and apropos here.  (more below the video):


One last point - the advance slowly notion need not be equally applied in all areas. If there is a true emergency with the national debt for example, perhaps a bit of not letting the crisis go to waste becomes not only feasible, but advantageous to conservative ideals.
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