For years, conservatives have told themselves the pretty bedtime story that they represent a silent majority in America -- that most Americans want smaller government, individual rights and personal responsibility. We've suggested that if only we nominated precisely the right guy who says the right words -- some illegally grown Ronald Reagan clone, perhaps -- we'd win.
Donald Trump's impending nomination puts all of that to bed.
There can be no doubt: The Republican Party has successful(ly) killed the legacy of Ronald Reagan. By consistently moving to the left in every presidential election, by granting the left its general premise that government is generally a tool for good rather than a risky potential instrument of tyranny and by teaching Americans that the problem isn't government itself, but who runs it, Republicans have ensured that the vast majority of Americans no longer hold to conservative principles.Glenn Beck spent a year assuring us that "We Surround Them," based on polls that showed huge number of self identified conservative voters. In retrospect, what we didn't do in these polls is ask them what it means, in their minds, to be "conservative." We didn't drill down and find out whether they believed the words written in the Constitution were the best way to govern a nation with so many individuals holding divergent views. I have heard people tell me that they are pretty conservative, and then start spouting the most far left talking points one could imagine. Jeb(!) Bush and a number of other Republican Governors championed the Common Core, for crying out loud. The truth is that Leftist often live conservatively because if they lived as they preached, the consequences would be disastrous. As an example, when Joe Biden was trying to argue that Republicans wanting to pay less taxes was Un-American, the address for sending more tax money to the Treasury was advertised. Anyone who felt that the IRS didn't take a big enough bite could send whatever they wanted into the Treasury. Nobody did.
The meaning of conservatism as a political philosophy has more a specific meaning, and we conservatives have failed miserably to convince the average voter that it is the only way we can survive as a nation. Conservative means we must be "conserving" something, and not just standing athwart history while the train runs over us.
So, let's look at the facts. Today, at low ebb, Trump garners approximately 4 in 10 Republican voters. Let's assume that at least half of those Americans aren't conservative -- a fair guess, given that many have admitted bias in polls in favor of government interventionism in the economy, a sneaking love for government entitlement programs and a strong position against immigration -- not for safety reasons, but to prevent economic competition. Meanwhile, more than 4 in 10 Americans support Democrats outright.
This means that at least 6 in 10 Americans support a big government vision of the world.
Which means conservatives have failed.I have long argued that conservatives should take a page out of the Leftist handbook, and begin our own "march through the institutions." We need to take back the education establishment, the legal profession, the media, and the cultural establishment. Conservatives do not have to be a bunch of frowning Carrie Nation types harshing everyone's mellow, and worrying that someone, somewhere, might be having a good time, as we are often parodied. That is not what conservatism is about, and the public scolds will get as many tomatoes thrown at them for my direction as from the Leftists. And while conservatives believe in the rights of the individual over the rights of the collective, we hardly advocate narcissistic endeavors that hurt or run roughshod over others. Mainly, we want the Federal Government to stay within the bounds set by the Constitution, which means a much smaller, much cheaper to operate, less active in interfering in our daily lives government. Today the Federal Government sucks the oxygen out of every room it enters. There is no room left for people to try different things, to experiment, and innovate.
Trump claims to want "Make America Great Again." What made America great was the dynamism of its people. Each individual had the opportunity to discover his or her own potential, and each individual made his or her place in society on his own merits. Today we are smothered in myriad Federal Regulations so numerous and all encompassing that it is beyond the power of anyone to know. Trump can't make American great, nor Hillary or Bernie, or for that matter Cruz. But only Cruz seems to recognize it, and is humble enough to want to stay within the Constitutional bonds.