The Conservative Crackup

Back to Basics: Fiscal Conservatism
E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
Nov. 7 2008 4:45 PM

The Conservative Crackup

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Tucker, Ross, Douglas, Jim, and Kathleen,

Following on Kathleen's post, let's remember that certain Republicans would rather be "red than dead." They don't care about winning as long as they stay ideologically pure, especially on social issues. For the party to operate that way, however, is a ticket to irrelevance. The choice of Sarah Palin for vice president was clearly a play for the base, and her lack of experience made that calculation even more obvious and was a turnoff for many people. (What's happening to her now, however, serves absolutely no purpose beyond making the disarray in the Republican Party even more obvious.)

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The "base" voted on Tuesday. In fact, 25 percent of the voters identified themselves as "born-again evangelicals." Yet John McCain lost. He lost just about every demographic beyond the Christian Coalition. Men, women, independents, minorities, youth, and Catholics all broke for Obama. I would argue there that the message is not that the GOP needs to shore up its conservative vote; it's that it needs to build up the broader coalition that Ronald Regan brought to the polls.

How to do that? We have to get away from being a litmus-test party on social issues and get back to the fiscal conservatism that used to define our party: keeping taxes low and controlling government spending. Less government involvement in our lives used to be a tenet of our party, along with a strong national defense, security at home, and a respect for our shared environment—and that was it.

The economy was the No. 1 issue that brought people to the polls on Tuesday. If the Democrats pass even half of the new spending programs called for during the campaign, not only will the federal deficit balloon, but taxes will have to skyrocket, and the definition of "middle class" will get lower and lower. That will be a perfect opportunity for a well-crafted, fiscally conservative Republican message.

Family values means more than fighting over a definition as to when life begins. It means strengthening families through programs that allow them to make choices for themselves, to choose the schools their children attend, to feel safe on their streets, and to be able to find jobs that can give them a sense of security. It means finding areas where the pro-choice and the anti-choice factions can agree: beginning and ending sex education with abstinence but recognizing that children don't always make the smart choices and that they need some other information in between, providing a safe place for a young girl to live if she wants to bring a child to term and can't live at home, supporting families with special needs, and recognizing that we all do better with a hand up rather than a handout.

If we want to be relevant, we should say and do everything we can to help Obama choose sensible and pragmatic economic solutions. Let's show that we are the party of ideas and solutions to the problems that are really troubling Americans in this recession.

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