February 12th, 2014

Conservative proposals

I just noticed a trend today: my two most recent posts are about conservative proposals for change. “Conservative” and “change” is not an oxymoron, either, because (unlike the idea some people have of conservatism) conservatism does not just represent stagnancy, or going back to something that once was. It does represent certain principles, many of which are rooted in the past, but there’s nothing against new solutions based on those principles.

All too often, though, the Republican Party (and conservation, which is not the same thing) has allowed itself to be defined as staying in the past, a sort of ossified fuddy-duddyism that doesn’t meet people’s needs. If conservatism is ever going to appeal to enough people to matter, it must change that perception and somehow override the liberal press to get out a message that will resonate with people.

There is no question in my mind that conservatism has such a message, and that it is a better message (although a more complex one) than that provided by today’s liberalism or the left. Conservatives had better learn how to formulate it, operationalize it with specifics, and deliver it in a way that people can hear and understand, or they will be marginalized. I’m convinced it’s possible to get the word out, but to do it conservatives can’t focus on side issues. Right now it’s the economic issues (including Obamacare) that are in people’s faces and for which people want solutions. The hype is that Republicans and/or conservatives don’t offer them. We need to stop complaining that the press is obscuring the real conservative message (although it is) and concentrate on making that message louder and clearer.

Of course, that’s hardly the only thing that needs doing. But it’s a very urgent thing.

26 Responses to “Conservative proposals”

  1. parker Says:

    The ‘message’ has to be simple and easily understood, on the order of give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats forever.

  2. Conrad Says:

    I think the biggest problem in selling conservatism at the moment is that people don’t understand just how socialist and statist America already is and has been for quite a long time. There are a lot of people who are so young and/or so unsophisticated in regard to politics and economics that they believe that that the U.S. during the administration of GWB was the Wild West, virtually devoid of government regulation — a place where the rich could ride roughshod over the poor and defenseless. They can’t seem to understand that the country has been fed a steady diet of liberal, statist “solutions” for at least the last 80 years with only occasional periods in which conservative ideas have been allowed to intrude. Thus, the horrific conditions they perceive simply aren’t the product of the laissez faire society they imagine prevailed in America prior to January 2009. To the contrary, a strong argument can be made that most of these problems were either caused or made worse by liberal policies.

    The health care system is a good example of this. People think of Obamacare as a “liberal” program, and correctly so. But they make the mistake of assuming that, because Obamacare is “liberal,” then the system that preceded Obamacare (which Obama still calls the “status quo” for some reason) was a CONSERVATIVE system. Well, it wasn’t. In fact , it was a system comprised of a vast conglomeration of government programs and regulations that affected literally every aspect of health care. There was nothing laissez faire about it. The idea that the problems associated with health care in the U.S. are somehow a product of a conservative “status quo” and that Obamacare is simply a modest liberal solution to that unbridled, free-market regime is simply ludicrous to anyone with the slightest understanding of history or economics. Yet that is precisely the way many people conceptualize America’s current position on the ideological spectrum: They see pre-Obama America as a country nearly wrecked by conservatism and post-Obama America as a country that is only beginning to experience the healing powers of liberalism.

  3. DNW Says:

    You would think that with improved technology, implying at least potentially greater life security at base, that conservatives would be able to sell the idea of greater individual choice and self-direction.

    In a world full of options, and fewer existential dangers in daily life, one would think that there would be less plausible justification for centralized regimentation and compulsion than ever before.

    But oddly, as we have seen with the left’s hysterical reaction to a partial and voluntary Social Security so-called “insurance” privatization ( too many ironies compounding in just one short phrase), that is not the case.

    No matter how inexpensive something becomes, no matter how demonstrably needless a procedure, no matter how elastic the demand should be, the left seems to feel a need to centrally and collectively regulate, enforce, provide and deny.

    The injustice is that some eat rye bread while others have wheat; that some move beyond land lines while others have not; that some reap benefits from engaging in diet and exercise and having good genetics, while others do not and don’t.

    The fact I am convinced, is that the collectivist impulse is for the most part not based on a kind of direct life-preservation need; but more on the indirect psychological need of a particular kind of person for having himself validated and included without exception. There is never enough security, never enough of being-in-on or having access to everything other humans do or create.

    And I think that if you read Marx on what constitutes human needs and wants, you will see that he takes a perspective diametrically opposed to those of us who would attempt to analyze human need on the basis of a baseline of biological fulfillment.

    There is consequently, never enough security of place to allow the kind of freedom conservatives and libertarians crave.

    “Needs and wants” in the collectivist view are socially provoked, always evolving, virtually always comparative, and seldom satisfied in the way conservatives think that they are.

    If I did not know better than to do so, I would remark that the mind of a collectivist seems much like the mentality my secretary exasperatedly ascribes to the teenage girl companions she wishes to separate her daughter from.

    The collective then is seen as almost a living thing; or better – since Marx himself somewhat surprisingly warns against reifying or personifying society – it the life of the species as it dynamically evolves; the very forum for the generation of needs and wants. No life, no life worthy of communist regard, exists outside the boundaries. The idiocy of rural life and all that, extrapolated

    And if there is life worth regarding, or envying, if it crops up somewhere, it must be brought within, and under control.

    The leftist’s base mentality is that what he needs, is what the other guy has. Society, the species life and his place within it, not God, not nature, not some metaphysical reality, is what to the collectivist mind constitutes the really real, and the only reality worth bothering about.

    So … how in the world are you going to sell a son of a bitch like that on freedom?

  4. Matt_SE Says:

    The conservative case for “change” is very simple:

    Change should happen organically. It is not directed top-down.
    If the people vote for change either explicity (e.g. gay marriage), or implicitly through the mechanism of free markets AND those “votes” do not contradict the Constitution, then the change is by definition legitimate.

    Contrast this with the way Obamacare was passed. Contrast it with the initial and continued unpopularity of the law.
    Contrast it with the necessary and continuous efforts needed to patch it with executive orders.
    And finally, contrast it with the ridiculous contortions of logic needed to find it Constitutional.

    All of this tells you that this law is illegitimate.

  5. Eric Says:

    Stop thinking in terms of magical messianic politician-candidates and fantasies of transformative election campaigns.

    That mode of thinking is obsolete.

    Start thinking in terms of popular social-cultural-political movements as the origin point of normative social change.

    Election campaigns matter but they are now a secondary or lesser included element.

    Study gay rights, feminism, equality-of-outcome affirmative action, and other current winning Marxist-method activist movements as role models. Learn their methodological principles, techniques, tactics, and procedures. Customize and apply their methods. Innovate.

    Become smart, aggressive, swashbuckling activists en masse. Place expert, dynamic activists in charge.

    The way to play the game is laid out and demonstrated. There’s no mystery to it. The method works. It works for them. Make it work for you. To win the game, you must play the game to win, and there is only one social-political game.

  6. Lizzy Says:

    Bill Whittle seems to be onto something with his latest video: http://tinyurl.com/n5wodcv

    Now we just have to figure out how to break this kind of message into meaningful soundbites and responses to the typical Leftist memes, such as War on Women and Republicans want to deny you food (stamps)!!

  7. Eric Says:

    Matt_SE: “The conservative case for “change” is very simple:”

    Indeed, fighting the base-setting battles of The Narrative and The Zeitgeist requires constant touchstone normative themes – eg, Equality. Episodic details are built onto the thematic structures.

    It’s a basic principle of storytelling.

  8. Matt_SE Says:


    While I’m not a proponent of fire-breathing social organization (too impractical in most cases for conservatives), I at least have always insisted on a Speaker of the House that can speak.

    That’s our side’s dilemma in a nutshell: our leadership is timid and inarticulate. If they can’t do something, they could at least make our case.

    Boehner and McConnell don’t do that, so they must go.
    (I would add that they are, in fact, much worse than that; actively sabotaging conservative efforts)

  9. holmes Says:

    I’m not sure if the message needs to improved or the messenger better equipped to deliver it. I actually think our audience is already too stoned on the state narcotic to hear any of it. It’s intervention time.

  10. neo-neocon Says:


    You wrote, “Stop thinking in terms of magical messianic politician-candidates and fantasies of transformative election campaigns.”

    Who’s thinking about such things? I’m certainly not; never have, and don’t think in those terms in this post. Au contraire.

    No magic. Nothing Messianic. And not even a particular candidate. Merely, as I wrote at the end (addressing all conservatives who would run for office, or their spokespeople):

    We need to stop complaining that the press is obscuring the real conservative message (although it is) and concentrate on making that message louder and clearer.

    Of course, that’s hardly the only thing that needs doing. But it’s a very urgent thing.

    Many things need doing.

  11. Matt_SE Says:

    I think Eric’s point is to “stop waiting for the next Reagan.” I think he wants a marxist-like movement of agitators for the right, or something (If I’m wrong, I’m sure he’ll correct me).

    Two points about that:
    1) The right is chock-full of “the next Reagan.” Many of the commenters on this board are the next Reagan…if only the barriers to entry for politics weren’t so high. While that might be a *bit* glib (politics does have its own skillset), it’s not too far off. No need to go 40 years in the wilderness waiting for the next messiah. They’re here right now.
    2) Conservatives by temperament don’t fit into the agitator lifestyle. And it *is* a lifestyle. We have responsibilities that we can’t and won’t abandon to go protest. The revolution will happen…it just won’t be televised.

  12. Irene Says:

    I think conservatives need to rebrand. May I suggest that they return to referring to themselves as “liberals”? Just steal the name back, explaining that corrupt democrats tried to pose as liberals, utterly failed, but we are the real thing and will restore America with the great liberal dream.

    Seriously, how many young people want to be known as conservatives, let alone Republicans? We need to also attract all the non-Marxists Democrats too. Many have been brainwashed for so long they just won’t allow themselves to think of themselves as conservatives.

    And frankly, the Republicans need to pull themselves together and stop all the infighting. Making the umbrella larger to accommodate more groups would be a great thing and you could do it under the moniker of (classical) liberalism.

  13. Mr. Frank Says:

    As long as the left controls education, entertainment, and the media, the conservative message won’t be going very far.

    If you only watched major networks and read only major news papers, would you know that Obamacare is failing badly and is hurting millions of people?

    I do not endorse this, but only demonization of the left and some violence will change things. It is no accident that the MSM rarely criticize Muslims. They fear for their lives.

  14. Ann Says:

    A big problem Republicans have is the lack of agreement on the message. Commentary’s got a good piece talking about that in relation to foreign policy: Is the GOP Now Rand Paul’s Party?

  15. Matt_SE Says:

    Both Irene and Ann have fallen victim to the “can’t we all just get along” meme. This presupposes that the Republican factions are squabbling over minutiae.

    Here’s another interpretation: there are factions within the party that do NOT have either the party’s or country’s best interests at heart. They are statists similar to Obama, but they want the power for themselves.

    In that respect, it is the difference between Hitler and Stalin; not opposites so much as rivals.

    Or, in another comparison to Obama, maybe they’re incompetent but have a lot of ambition. So, no evil…just fools.

    Either way, their goals are not our goals. We want government shrunk, they do not. When you have differences in fundamental positions, the answer is “no, we can’t all just get along.”

  16. Lock Says:

    Here’s another interpretation: there are factions within the party that do NOT have either the party’s or country’s best interests at heart. They are statists similar to Obama, but they want the power for themselves.

    Look at it another way though. When the Democrats are also fractured they are weaker. When factions turn on each other, it never has made them stronger in elections (to my knowledge).

    I don’t think it works in war, and I don’t think it works in politics. You have to find a way to work with people who are better choices than the greater enemy. Imagine if the Allies had been fighting amongst themselves while trying to fight the Axis powers? Does that make sense?

  17. Tonawanda Says:

    Ditto on Matt’s 5:14 PM post, conservative change is organic. It takes into consideration things like cost/benefit analysis, unintended consequences, the lessons of history. It is based on personal modesty.

    None of those things ever enter into the puerile vision of the Left.

    I hope I am wrong, but I do not believe the message of the non-Left could possibly be made clearer than it is today.

    The problem is that the high information voter in charge of and peopling the vast government bureaucracies, the media, the 501(c)(3)s, government schools and academia, are religious fanatics who definitively and often conclusively influence what is thought and even permitted to be thought.

    It took decades to do, but they did it.

    Anything non-Leftists do now in its present effect will at best hold the line and with luck prevent the complete descent into this religious totalitarian state we are fast becoming.

    By far the best present weapon we have is out of our control, the Left over-playing its hand, which it necessarily will do given their epistemically closed religious mind-set.

    If there is a long run, non-Leftists need to create venues appealing to the high information voter, the people who eventually come to influence what determinative things are thought and discussed in society.

    The mature sounding, cool/warm, soothing voices of NPR, addressing life’s many interesting details (like in the good old days of the BBC international service) need to be employed in a non-Left NPR.

    I dream of a Neo, Lileks, Sowell, Hanson, Steyn and many more coming up with weekly programming which appeals to the high information voter in an informative and appealing way. Heck, a weekly ten minute segment on Frost would be a great one.

    I dream of a Kevin Williamson as editor of a non-Left New Yorker.

    We need the Koch brothers to buy the equivalent of the NY Times, specifically including the wonderful Sunday magazine.

    Even very intelligent humans are humans. Intelligence is no guard against egotism and religious fanaticism.

    But in America the very intelligent do not have the sort of daily doses of calm, highly well done, intellectual “entertainment” from they non-Left as they do from the Left.

    The people are there to do it, and I believe so is the audience if it is cleverly done.

    And thus we would at least be competing to open the minds of the folks who control so much of the culture.

  18. Ymarsakar Says:

    Mr. Frank, you may be interested in a certain individual that also faced similar issues in his war of liberation. Malcom X.

    Since it has gotten pretty obvious how psychological warfare and propaganda works in the war the Left declared against us, it’s best to hear it from the person themselves rather than using filters. Unless you absolutely need radiation filters for safety.


  19. Ymarsakar Says:

    But when it comes time for you and me to protect ourselves against lynchings, they tell us to be nonviolent.

    That’s a shame. Because we get tricked into being nonviolent, and when somebody stands up and talks like I just did, they say, “Why, he’s advocating violence!” Isn’t that what they say? Every time you pick up your newspaper, you see where one of these things has written into it that I’m advocating violence. I have never advocated any violence. I’ve only said that Black people who are the victims of organized violence perpetrated upon us by the Klan, the Citizens’ Council, and many other forms, we should defend ourselves. And when I say that we should defend ourselves against the violence of others, they use their press skillfully to make the world think that I’m calling on violence, period. I wouldn’t call on anybody to be violent without a cause. But I think the Black man in this country, above and beyond people all over the world, will be more justified when he stands up and starts to protect himself, no matter how many necks he has to break and heads he has to crack.

    I saw in the paper where they — on the television where they took this Black woman down in Selma, Alabama, and knocked her right down on the ground, dragging her down the street. You saw it, you’re trying to pretend like you didn’t see it ’cause you knew you should’ve done something about it and didn’t. It showed the sheriff and his henchmen throwing this Black woman on the ground — on the ground.

    And Negro men standing around doing nothing about it saying, “Well, let’s overcome them with our capacity to love.” What kind of phrase is that? “Overcome them with our capacity to love.” And then it disgraces the rest of us, because all over the world the picture is splashed showing a Black woman a with some white brutes, with their knees on her holding her down, and full-grown Black men standing around watching it. Why, you are lucky they let you stay on earth, much less stay in the country.

    When I saw it I dispatched a wire to Rockwell; Rockwell was one of the agitators down there, Rockwell, this [George] Lincoln Rockwell [leader of the American Nazi Party].

    And the wire said in essence that this is to warn him that I am no longer held in check from fighting white supremacists by Elijah Muhammad’s separatist ‘Black Muslim’ movement. And that if Rockwell’s presence in Alabama causes harm to come to Dr. King or any other Black person in Alabama who’s doing nothing other than trying to enjoy their rights, then Rockwell and his Ku Klux Klan friends would be met with maximum retaliation from those of us who are not handcuffed by this nonviolent philosophy. And I haven’t heard from Rockwell since.

    Brothers and sisters, if you and I would just realize that once we learn to talk the language that they understand, they will then get the point. You can’t ever reach a man if you don’t speak his language. If a man speaks the language of brute force, you can’t come to him with peace. Why, good night! He’ll break you in two, as he has been doing all along. If a man speaks French, you can’t speak to him in German. If he speaks Swahili, you can’t communicate with him in Chinese. You have to find out what does this man speak. And once you know his language, learn how to speak his language, and he’ll get the point. There’ll be some dialogue, some communication, and some understanding will be developed.

    You’ve been in this country long enough to know the language the Klan speaks. They only know one language. And what you and I have to start doing in 1965 — I mean that’s what you have to do, because most of us already been doing it — is start learning a new language. Learn the language that they understand. And then when they come up on our doorstep to talk, we can talk. And they will get the point. There’ll be a dialogue, there’ll be some communication, and I’m quite certain there will then be some understanding. Why? Because the Klan is a cowardly outfit. They have perfected the art of making Negroes be afraid. As long as the Negro’s afraid, the Klan is safe. But the Klan itself is cowardly. One of them will never come after one of you. They all come together. Sure, and they’re scared of you.

    And you sit there when they’re putting the rope around your neck saying, “Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do.” As long as they’ve been doing it, they’re experts at it, they know what they’re doing!

    No, since they federal government has shown that it isn’t going to do anything about it but talk, it is a duty, it’s your and my duty as men, as human beings, it is our duty to our people, to organize ourselves and let the government know that if they don’t stop that Klan, we’ll stop it ourselves. And then you’ll see the government start doing something about it. But don’t ever think that they’re going to do it just on some kind of morality basis, no. So I don’t believe in violence — that’s why I want to stop it. And you can’t stop it with love, not love of those things down there, no. So, we only mean vigorous action in self-defense, and that vigorous action we feel we’re justified in initiating by any means necessary.

    Now, the press, behind something like that, they call us racist and people who are “violent in reverse.” This is how they psycho you. They make you think that if you try to stop the Klan from lynching you, you’re practicing “violence in reverse.” Pick up on this, I hear a lot of you all parrot what the [white] man says. You say, “I don’t want to be a Ku Klux Klan in reverse.” Well, you – heh! — if a criminal comes around your house with his gun, brother, just because he’s got a gun and he’s robbing your house, brother, and he’s a robber, it doesn’t make you a robber because you grab your gun and run him out. No, see, the man is using some tricky logic on you. And he has absolutely got a Ku Klux Klan outfit that goes through the country frightening black people. Now, I say it is time for black people to put together the type of action, the unity, that is necessary to pull the sheet off of them so they won’t be frightening black people any longer. That’s all. And when we say this, the press calls us “racist in reverse.”

    “Don’t struggle — only within the ground rules that the people you’re struggling against have laid down.” Why, this is insane. But it shows you how they can do it. With skillful manipulating of the press, they’re able to make the victim look like the criminal, and the criminal look like the victim.

    Right now in New York we had a couple cases where police grabbed the brother and beat him unmercifully — and then charged him with assaulting them. They used the press to make it look like he’s the criminal and they’re the victim. This is how they do it, and if you study how they do it [t]here, then you’ll know how they do it over here. It’s the same game going all the time, and if you and I don’t awaken and see what this man is doing to us, then it’ll be too late. They may have the gas ovens already built before you realize that they’re hot.

    It’s extremely dangerous for the black community to learn about “black history month”. The real one, not the Leftist propaganda one.

    Forgive the liberals, for they know not what they do, has been heard several times. These days, the Tea Party and freedom fighters aren’t called fascists and violent people in reverse. They just call you violent, misogynist, Islamophobia, war on women, bigot, subhuman, monster, demon, etc.

  20. Ymarsakar Says:

    You have to find a way to work with people who are better choices than the greater enemy. Imagine if the Allies had been fighting amongst themselves while trying to fight the Axis powers? Does that make sense?

    So you want us to be like the Germans and Russians when they did the pact to conquer and separate Poland, dividing up the loot. Then we’ll settle our civil war differences after Poland has been carved up.

    You might want to re analyze the strategic situation here.

    There are 4 strategic level factions at work here. American patriots. Non patriotic Americans. The Leftist alliance. Islamic Jihad.

  21. Charles Says:

    “Conservatism” is a tough message to sell.

    When so many people think that the solution MUST be government and their only question is HOW? then to try to suggest that the solution is little to no government intervention one comes across as being off one’s rocker.

    This is, in fact, a very tough challenge to overcome. How does one sell the idea “I’m running for political office because I believe that we need less government intervention”?

    One possible solution is for governors of states that have implemented conservative policies to get their message out. The Republican party needs to take such success stories nationwide. (I hope Scott Walker is listening to that suggestion!)

    Further, and although off-topic to this thread I think it is still important; Republicans need to cut out the socially conservative crap. I do believe that a lot of “middle of the road” voters (like myself) are turned off by their socially conservative attitude. (quite frankly, abortion is legal; gay rights to marry will most likely be the law; evolution is science and intelligent design is not; and religion does NOT belong in public school; so shut the eff up about those ideas already! Find another way to “shore up your base” or continue to lose elections)

    As one who is socially very liberal, yet politically very conservative, I find myself “holding my nose” as I vote for the Republican candidate simply because I find his social values a big turn off, yet, I know we need his fiscal values.

  22. Ymarsakar Says:

    Atheism is a religion and it is classified as normal in schools, along with pre sexual conditioning triggers of elementary kids under Core. It’s an interesting position to be in to be against religion but for that.

    Paying for someone else’s abortion makes it less likely people will understand or agree with the sentiment, my body, my way. Technically, if you don’t pay for a procedure, it’s somebody else’s body then. I’m sure if kids could pay not to be aborted, they would, but because they can’t, it’s not their body or choice any more.

    Gay rights can be summed up as the right of blacks and other minorities to live on the Leftist tax plantation and slave plantation system. A cow is entitled to safety, protection, food, and medical care, up until it needs to be slaughtered or milked. It seems to be a workable relationship for animals. So gays must also like that kind of thing. It’s not about and never will be about, personal sovereignty of two people together. That’s not the goal of a farm, to marry off chickens to make eggs. Not the point.

    Charles society will be an abject failure. The economy might be running well, but tax farms and plantation systems are run rather well on the profit size. If you want to live in an evil society that makes a profit, go for Charles vision. That’s still human choice, assuming you haven’t abdicated free will to the Leftist slave system.

  23. Larry Says:

    Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man religion and he starves to death praying for fish.

  24. Irene Says:

    Matt: “Both Irene and Ann have fallen victim to the “can’t we all just get along” meme. This presupposes that the Republican factions are squabbling over minutiae.”

    Hey Matt, I’m calling for re-establishment of classical liberalism as the clarion call to arms and you’re saying, “We want government shrunk, they do not”? WTF?

  25. Ymarsakar Says:

    Matt probably didn’t choose his targeting and words as well as he should have.

  26. Matt_SE Says:


    “They” in that sentence referred to statists (Democrats and RINOs), not you.
    I’m just saying, be wary of the narrative that this is an argument over nothing. It most certainly is NOT over nothing. The differences (between statists and conservatives) are real and fundamental.

    If that’s your position, then we’re already on the same page.

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