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I'm Standing Up for Conservatism   November 7th, 2008
       

 
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In light of the election results and the way those results are being portrayed, I've come to the conclusion that conservatives must stand up for what they believe in every way we can, every opportunity we get. Visibly, in public.

Obama's success in winning the presidential election--along with the Democrats having won more seats in both the House and the Senate--are being misrepresented as a tectonic shift to the left in the American electorate. The truth is, however, Obama's 52.6% of the popular vote is only 4.3% more than Kerry achieved in 2004; likewise, McCain's 46.2% is 4.5% less than Bush won that same year. That means that in 2008 we witnessed a shift of about 4.4% of the population. In other words, if you have 25 Americans in a room, one of them decided to change sides between the elections of 2004 and 2008.

That's not a particularly large movement in the electorate.
Especially when we consider all the things working against the Republicans: An unpopular war, falling home prices, rising unemployment, higher inflation, higher energy prices (though they have recently fallen), a major financial crisis unequaled since the Great Depression, an unpopular government bailout of companies that most Americans didn't think should be bailed out, a media that was blatantly sympathetic to the Democratic candidate , and a young charismatic Democratic candidate funded with a $639 million campaign war chest matched against an elderly Republican candidate that wasn't particularly conservative and who only had slightly more than half as much money to campaign with . And, ironically, the Democrats stole the tax-cutting plank from conservatives--by the end of the campaign more people thought they'd get a tax cut from Obama than McCain . They know Americans are fiscally conservative and they somehow convinced the public that they were going to be more conservative than Republicans.

And yet only one American out of a room of 25 actually changed their vote.

That isn't a monumental shift--in fact, given the political environment and the non-stop promotion of Obama and the almost equally non-stop tearing down of McCain, the results are rather underwhelming. Sure, they earned sufficient votes to win the presidency and, for the first time in decades, the Democrats can even claim a mandate since Obama won with more than 50% of the popular vote (something Democrats have had a hard time doing in presidential elections for the last three decades). But it should be noted that Obama's 52.6% share of the popular vote doesn't come close to Reagan's true landslide with 58.8% of the vote in his 1984 re-election . Obama's win doesn't even measure up to George Bush Sr.'s win in 1988 (2008 Obama 52.6%, 1998 Bush 53.4%) .

This is not to diminish Obama's accomplishment. Anyone that wins the presidency must be congratulated. It's a long and tiring proposition and those that participate don't know whether the effort will be rewarded or rejected by the country.

Having said that, articles such as "America the Liberal?" by the New Republic are engaged in what, at this point, looks like decidedly wishful thinking:

Groups that had been disproportionately Republican have become disproportionately Democratic; and red states like Virginia have become blue. But underlying these changes has been a shift in the nation's "fundamentals"--in the structure of society and industry, and in the way Americans think of family, job, and government. The country is definitely no longer "America the conservative." And with the Republican Party and big business identified with a potentially disastrous downturn, it could become over the next four years "America the liberal." That's what makes this election fundamentally different from 1976 or 1992. Unlike Carter and Clinton, Obama will be taking office with the wind at his back rather than in his face.


As much as they may use the numbers in this election (and 2006) to support that position, I believe they are misinterpreting a hatred of President Bush and a disgust for the War in Iraq as a signal that Americans are asking for a more liberal government. The Democrats themselves stoked that hatred and that disgust for the last five years; yet when that stoking finally produced the desired results this election, they portray it as a rejection of conservatism and an embracing of liberal ideology. On balance, the data does not support that. There wasn't a real conservative running in this election and Republicans noticed that: And reacted by staying home . And with a liberal state such as California passing a ban on gay marriage (a decidedly non-liberal position), and given the fact that Obama didn't even score as large a percentage of the popular vote as George Bush Sr., claiming that this is a massive mandate for liberal policies and a rejection of traditional American conservatism seems unlikely.

Many liberals--both in the media and in the blogosphere--are claiming that this election is a rejection of conservatism, and that Obama needs to push full-speed ahead with liberal proposals. They believe that, unlike Carter in 1976 and Clinton in 1992, Americans actually want a far more liberal government; and that, unlike the last two times they held the White House, the American people will not rebel two or four years later and either snatch the presidency or the Congress from their hands. Perhaps they're right. But based on their underwhelming "landslide" in an environment tailor-made for a major landslide, and the fact that non-liberal proposals made headway even in liberal outposts such as California, I think the Democrats will be taking a huge gamble if they make that assumption.

Be Of Good Cheer! And Be Proud to be an American Conservative!

It is natural to feel discouraged after losing an election. I felt it primarily the morning after. But I slowly realized the pendulum of politics simply swung the other way as it is wont to do. And it will swing back.

But we must not be discouraged or allow ourselves to be deceived that conservatism in America is dead. I suspect we'll be hearing that quite a bit in the upcoming weeks and months. I've already seen several articles in the media declaring an end to the age of Reagan conservatism and small government, as if the current financial crisis were caused by conservatism (it wasn't) . As explained above, I think such a verdict is extremely premature and very possibly entirely wrong: Where they see a rejection of conservatism, I think most of us would agree it's more a rejection of Bush and the War in Iraq.

Regardless, they will try to tell us that our ideology is obsolete and that only one or two of us still subscribe to it. They will mock conservatism and, in the process, those of us that recognize its validity. And, more importantly, they'll try to convince the people in the middle that conservatism is dead--and in the absence of anyone saying otherwise, many will believe it. That can only hurt conservatives in upcoming elections, and that's obviously precisely the intent of those that are pronouncing the demise of the conservative movement and the Republican party.

Our job, then, is to make sure that they can't convince the public that there are no more conservatives. Whether it be Democratic politicians, late-night comedy, the media, or anyone else. We must make it clear that we are still conservatives and that we will not yield to bad policies. Unlike the angry Democrats of the last five years, we should resist firmly but politely. We should criticize bad ideas rather than dwell on individual politicians; politicians come and go, but conservatism will live on. We should patiently explain not only why liberalism is a bad idea but more importantly why conservatism is right. And we should definitely not be deceived into thinking that we should hide our conservative ideology in the face of enormous pressure that I expect will be brought to bear in the near future.

In that spirit, I'm taking a stand for conservatism by dropping the alias that I previously used in the interest of anonymity. It's not that I was ever ashamed of my beliefs but I was concerned about the potential retaliation that I might suffer from less tolerant people with a different point of view. NO MORE! From this point forward I will be publishing all my articles under my name. Let no-one doubt that we conservatives are real people, real voters, and have real ideological concerns about proposals that stray from the conservative principles that made this country great.

I'm Craig Steiner, and I approve this message.

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