If you are one of those “conservatives” more concerned about your next cable news hit on the latest tabloid political story rather than critical policy outcomes, this article is not for you. After all, you know what to do next. There are plenty of hot takes to be baked on the latest political fistfights, while avoiding the policy betrayals at all costs. But if you genuinely want to drain the swamp and fundamentally change direction away from the current political class – both Democrat and Republican – you find yourself once again asking the question, “What next?”
Years of unfathomable acts of political betrayal don’t happen in a vacuum. The stone-cold reality is that there is simply nothing the GOP can do that will elicit a meaningful reaction from conservatives, led by leaders in the conservative media and political profession. That is why there is no deterrent against their agenda.
Call it the opioid crisis of the conservative movement. There is an endless supply of political morphine to numb the senses of otherwise reasonable people and acclimate their sensitivities to the inexorable march leftward on every issue. Concurrent with every policy betrayal is a juicy WWE-style political fight with the Left over nothingness and emptiness. Latest example: the Trump-Biden virtual reality fistfight just as the omnibus perfidy was unfolding. It gave conservative talkers, personalities, and paper-pushers something to focus on, a flag behind which to rally, even though there is no army following that flag and no goal ahead of it.
The conservative movement has become like the icing without the cake or a harmony without a melody. We have everything. We have all sorts of platforms from which to react to the Left and deliver our hot takes. We have all the musical instruments and an orchestra full of musicians. But we don’t have a tune. We lack a basic vision for the country and the apparatus, commitments, and consistency to see it through. Thus we trash-talk the Left about ideas “our own side” is not even promoting or is downright betraying. There’s no doubt that had the entire “movement” been focused on stopping this omnibus since the first budget betrayal in February and demanded that Trump veto the bill, the president would have felt compelled to dust off his pen. But everyone’s gotta eat, and there is no money to be made in focusing on policy.
What has happened to our country while the clickservative professional class is under the influence of the endless political dope?
Here’s the reality we face
In the 2016 elections, Republicans won control of all branches of the federal government and a record number of state governments. This was always going to be the high-water mark of their power, potential, and opportunity to reverse terrible policies while plotting a new path forward before Democrats inevitably return to power and succeed swiftly in their goals, as they tend to do when in control.
What do we have to show for it?
Most transformational reforms require Congress to pass a new bill. The only good thing we got out of this Congress was the tax cut bill, which Congress now refuses to make permanent. After passing every single Democrat budget and essentially codifying Obama’s legacy of programs and expanding his spending baseline, Republicans plan to do nothing else this year. In fact, inaction at this point will be a good thing.
On an administrative level, the president has done a number of things that move the ball forward, but many of the good policies are tied up in the morass of judicial supremacy, as the courts are forcing him to continue some of the worst immigration policies, social engineering, and environmental regulations of the Obama administration. Meanwhile, nobody ever raises a voice against the runaway judiciary, other than to fool ourselves into thinking we are fixing the institution with “better judges.” We are essentially left with Obama’s third term on many important, long-term issues.
On the state level, Republicans began 2017 with an enormous opportunity. They held 34 governorships, 33 states with control of both chambers of the legislature, and controlled the trifecta (governor and both chambers) in 25 states. They had super-majorities in a number of states. Remember how we always hear Republicans lack a super-majority in the U.S. Senate and can’t get anything done? Well, that is not an issue in some states.
Yet even on the state level, there are very few states where Republicans accomplished even a few transformational policies. We have states like Oklahoma, where Romney and Trump won every single county, yet GOP leaders blocked a simple religious liberty bill and pushed tax increases, even though they held a 40-8 super-majority.
Most GOP governors are promoting Obamacare and Medicaid and endless federal programs. And then the few positive initiatives they accomplish, such as Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, are immediately vetoed by the phantom judicial veto of district judges.
There is no red state in this country. There is no state where we are accomplishing for limited government and traditional values what the left accomplishes in New York and California for economic and cultural Marxism on a daily basis.
Try identifying one major issue that we have successfully moved to the right over the years through GOP control. Perhaps the Second Amendment is the one issue Republicans universally championed and moved to the right over the past two decades. But now they have allowed a false narrative to take over on guns and public safety, and the Florida legislature – yes, with a GOP super-majority – passed gun control without addressing the jailbreak “PROMISE” program behind the lack of will to incarcerate Nicholas Cruz. On a federal level, they have now empowered government to place more veterans on a no-buy list without the long-promised right to carry reciprocity bill.
Yes, I know everyone has their prepared lists of good things the president and some Republican states accomplished, but most of them are either fleeting, merely partial reversals of the tremendous progress the Left made for years, or will easily be countermanded now that the GOP is handing the election to the Democrats. This is the political “ratchet effect” Margaret Thatcher warned about – how governments always move to the left when the Left is in charge but at best stay in place when the Right is in charge.
Sure, we will win small skirmishes from time to time and express joy about a good presidential appointment here and there, but that is all fleeting. It’s also relative. The Left has moved so far off the cliff so quickly that they have dragged Republicans and even conservatives to the left. Our expectations have been dumbed down so much that we use the inevitable marginal, yet noticeable difference between the two sides as reason to continue celebrating Republicans – all the while forgetting how quickly we allowed the political universe to shift leftward so quickly. Ask yourself this question: What have Republicans done in your lifetime that you are so proud of you want to shout it from the rooftops? And did it endure in the long run?
Also, remember, we are now at the high-water mark of GOP control and will now lose it – not on account of doing amazing conservative things with the power but, horribly, on account of fulfilling the other side’s policies. Democrats will then win state governments and control redistricting for a decade. And unlike when Republicans drew the maps, don’t count on the courts to nullify their most egregious gerrymanders.
We must look beyond what is on our plate at the moment on social media. We must look long and broad and plot our own destiny.
Conservatives are homeless
The solution begins by first recognizing the severity of the problem we face and not ignoring it like a drug addict who becomes numb to pain. We are homeless and have been for quite some time. We need a new party and a new movement. We need bold new leaders with innovative ideas that are rooted in timeless principles. We need to convene a Convention of States to deal with this problem systemically. We need ordinary citizens with expertise in various issues to form task forces that will expose corruption in government and reveal the truth of what is causing various policy crises in our economy, politics, and society.
Most of all, we need to think out of the box. But that will not begin until we cure ourselves of the Stockholm syndrome that keeps us anchored in the status quo.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.