When one declares oneself to be a conservative, one is not, unfortunately, thereupon visited by tongues of fire that leave one omniscient. The acceptance of a series of premises is just the beginning. After that, we need constantly to inform ourselves, to analyze and to think through our premises and their ramifications. We need to ponder, in the light of the evidence, the strengths and the weaknesses, the consistencies and the inconsistencies, the glory and the frailty of our position, week in and week out. Otherwise, we will not hold our own in a world where informed dedication, not just dedication, is necessary for survival and growth.

William F. Buckley Jr., Feb 8, 1956, NR

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How Should Conservatives Approach The Obama Presidency?

Part I – Individual Perspectives On The Upcoming Presidency. Part II Will Discuss Party Approaches

Across the country the comments regarding personal approaches to the upcoming term of President Obama have ranged from apathy to refusal to acknowledge the outcome of the election. Obama’s message of intangible change has resonated throughout the world, and this represents a good opportunity to define how conservatives, both individually and collectively, should treat the new President.

First and foremost, we are Americans. We espouse the values and morality of democratic rule and the virtues of our representative republic. We cannot, therefore, abdicate those positions simply because our party did not win the election. The fact is that you win some and you lose some, and the hardest losses to take are the ones that result not from being defeated, but from defeating oneself as happened in this election. The emotional reaction might be one of simple disgust, but the emotional has little place in defining our role and responsibility during the next four years. We must take a step back and frame our mindset so that everything we do politically is a step in accomplishing our goal of a Reagan-esque policy emerging as a Phoenix! It can’t happen by itself, and it will take discipline and determination.

I submit in this post five things that we must do as individuals to confront the Obama presidency and prepare for not only the 2010 elections, but the Presidential race in 2012.

1. We must identify who we are and what we believe. We often berate liberals for lockstep voting for the democrat party. Are we as conservatives any different? I thought John McCain, as admirable as he is as an individual, was a very poor candidate to put before America as the next President and he was not my choice in the primary election. However, there was little else to choose from in the general election so of course he received my vote. Once he was the GOP candidate, he was in possession of my full support, if not agreement with his campaign/philosophy.

We must identify ourselves. To what segment of the GOP do you belong? Are you a Reagan conservative, believing in small government and individual responsibility? Are you a “right wing wacko” who only votes on the issue of abortion? Perhaps you are a social liberal but a conservative in things economic. I do not seek to pass judgment on anyone’s affiliation, only to qualify who we are and where we stand. Regardless of where you fall on the line, you must know before you engage where your own prejudice lies in relation to your political ideology.

2. We must refrain from being democrats. Over the past eight years, President Bush has stood before the nation and been castigated from all quarters. I do have my issues with his financial policies and I doubt his true conservative convictions, but no President in this nation should be so vilified that he cannot function and focus on the issues and concerns of the nation. No President deserves the blatant disrespect and hatred exhibited by almost half of our population.

We must act in a mature and responsible manner. We should respect the Office of the President regardless of who holds the office. As I tell my son all the time, just because someone did something “first” is no rationale for you to do it second. What matters to character is the actions you take, whether anyone is watching or not.

We must act responsibly and maturely. The madness of politics must stop at some point. We must assert statesmanship as the way of doing business. Again, as I tell my son, “There is no need to make _______ look like a jackass. Just let him be and he will take care of that himself.”

3. We must honestly evaluate programs and policies that are recommended and proposed. There are many areas in politics that should be free from partisanship. There are areas of budgeting allocation that can be agreed upon. There are programs which can easily be supported by both parties. The things with which we disagree should be fought. The things which damage our nation or our conservative principles should set loose the proverbial dogs of war! We should speak out against them, blog against them, contact talk radio in opposition to them, and stay informed of changes.

The political parties float “trial balloons” which are public release of information or intentional leaks that are used to gauge the reaction of the public. If the reaction is favorable, then it is then released as a policy matter. If it is readily and vigorously opposed, then they have the deniability that is was a policy recommendation and simply bad information on the part of the news media. We must be current on what is actually happening and not fall prey to those short soundbites that are often lacking contextual materials. We must react swiftly, and with loud voices.

Stay informed! Do more than just read right leaning blogs. Watch real news shows, read papers, visit left leaning blogs. In addition, not many people know of the Federal Register. It is a daily publication of proposed rule changes, executive orders, etc. It is also published on the web at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/

Most items are open for a period of public comment before it is implemented. Things that deal with national defense issues are not included.

4. We must get involved. It is not enough to sit back and simply blog. We must find new conservative voters. We need voter drives, people to place signs, people to write letters to your representatives in Congress and the party, and a thousand otheractivities to lend our support to conservative candidates.

5. We must confront our party and demand what we want. We must hold them to the fire until we get what we want. Our party is absolutely out of touch with the real base, but it is US who stands in line for two hours to pull a lever. If they expect us to support them when they act like democrats, we must tell them that we will not do it! This party is ours. We must assert ownership, or lose it.

Keep your eyes on the prize! Our nation will withstand anything that is put before us, and one man with one term cannot destroy that which God has blessed and for which millions have died. We did not succumb to the Great Depression, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, two world wars, Vietnam, the Great Society (yet), the Carter administration, and eight years of President Clinton. I predicted two years ago that Hillary would not win an election in this country, and I was wrong. She never even got the chance. We will endure, and with us all working together, we will overcome!


TRUTH-PAIN said...

Excellent, excellent points Robert. I just read the whole thing twice and am jotting some thoughts down for a future posting. There are so many ways to extrapolate and go on a tangent with this posting but the important thing is that the dialogue cannot stop or stagnate due to GOP malaise about the state of conservatism in general. I hate to use the "we needed Carter to get Reagan" metaphor, but it may not be to far from the truth.
I'll be back :)

Sam Huntington said...

Clarifying what we believe from a political perspective is easier said, than done. I include myself, of course. But for the sake of simplicity, let me offer one personal thought as it involves our humanity. We must first of all recognize that Americans, as a group, are the most charitable people in the world. No other people give as much to charity as the Americans. It may be that we are simply better off financially than other people are, but that isn’t the point here.

Yet, if we believe the above statement is true, let us break it down a little more to understand the mental processes that may guide this behavior. I think that a liberal believes that humane gestures should come from the government because if we the people are the government and if we are a wealthy nation, then responsibility for reaching out to others in an efficient and nonjudgmental way is a government responsibility.

The conservative view is that giving is a Christian duty, and one best performed within our communities and through reputable organizations. This is important because if we receive God’s blessings for adhering to a charitable nature, we are deprived of His blessings if we simply leave it up to the government, and especially in light of the fact that the government is not an honest broker, and it is too often inefficient.

A liberal believes that there is no such thing as too much government; a conservative argues, on the basis of human history, that we cannot trust government – and this is why our founding fathers gave us the Constitution: it is a check on the power (and resources) of government to work against the people’s interests.

In this instance, there can be no moderate view. One is either a liberal, or a conservative. One is either liberal, seeking to distance himself from personal responsibility, or a conservative whose charitable nature demands individual accountability. Thus, I do not understand people who claim to be “socially liberal” and “fiscally conservative.” As it happens, I personally distrust the radical right as much as I do the radical left, but I also do not think it is possible to be a political moderate. Either one embraces the principles of government as given to us by our founding fathers, which I have always found tempered with reasonableness, or we reject tradition in favor of liberal progressivism, which lacks virtue because it is selfish and gratuitous.

Joe said...

"It is not enough to sit back and simply blog."

As you know, that is my constant mantra.

We must get involved and stay involved.

rockync said...

Sam, I am one of those moderates. I beg to disagree with the idea that there is no moderate view "in this instance." I find your contention that only conservatives can be personally generous or honor a Christian or spiritual duty a little over the top. Are you suggesting that there are no individuals or small groups doing charitable work that have liberal members? I know some very generous, responsible liberals as well as conservatives.
First you state," We must first of all recognize that Americans, as a group, are the most charitable people in the world. No other people give as much to charity as the Americans." Then you set about trying to make a case that perhaps liberals aren't included. Then it seems you wish to cut me completely out of the equation because I am of more moderate beliefs. So what do I believe? I believe the Peace Corps offers a great way for young people to serve as American good will ambassadors while giving of their time, energy and compassion. This is a federal agency but I will continue to support the wonderful work it does. Even conservatives benefit by tax deductible donations to certain charities they choose to support - another way the government "gets involved." Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us and how true that has proved to be. While I am not thrilled with the welfare system we have supported for years, I think our government is on the right track in the "work for welfare" programs to reduce rolls. More can and should be done to get more people off the dole but we must do this in a humane way. Of course, to accomplish a significant welfare reduction requires having enough jobs paying a living wage -- so first order of business will have to be the economy.
On a personal level, I no longer ascribe to any organized religion - I am too burned out of all the negative energy being generated in the name of God. I no longer call myself a Christian. Don't get me wrong, now; I believe in God, talk to him daily and I spend a large part of my time looking for ways to increase my spiritual growth. I consider it my most important mission in life. I believe in Jesus as the Christ and honor Him as such. If someone asks, I gladly share my faith, but I find some who would call themselves "Christians" too repulsive to be aligned with them. I look always to leave people feeling better for having encountered me today. Which is not to say that I'm simply a "people pleaser." I will always stand up to injustice and I'm no pushover - I always tell it like I see it. I grow weary of intolerance and the associated hatred and derision that accompanies it. I respect each person's religious/ spiritual beliefs or lack thereof. It is for each person to work out their relationship with God and the Universe. I don't ascribe to homosexuality but I respect the right of others to live their own lives and choose their own relationships. I do have limits to what is acceptable to me and what is not - unacceptable to me is anyone or anything done to injure others, especially those crimes committed against children and animals. Mindless cruelty is abhorrent to me.
Try to write me off if you want - but don't expect ME to go quietly into the night. And don't expect me to "choose sides." I steadfastly stand in the middle and hold out my hands out to all fellow human beings of this Earth.

Sam Huntington said...


You are free to believe what you want. What I said was that Americans are a generous people; I never suggested that liberals aren’t good hearted. What I wrote was that liberal attitudes with respect to charity are wrong. And if you are a “moderate” who agrees with liberals that we require more socialism, then you’re wrong too. I honestly don’t know what “principles” a moderate embraces because it would appear that either ideology suits them just fine.

I will only observe that you support the Peace Corps as a worthwhile endeavor (and maybe it is), and no doubt spending hundreds of millions of dollars (of taxpayer money) in foreign aid . . . possibly because “it’s the right thing to do.”

You no doubt overlook the fact that tens of thousands of missionaries do extremely good work throughout the world, supported entirely through charitable organizations numbering in the hundreds. We support doctors without borders, we send teachers out into remote villages, and we provide teams of agriculturalists to help backwards people learn farming, and organizations such as AmeriCares provides food, medicine, and physicians to the victims of natural disasters.

And this is in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars the United States gives to United Nations Organizations, which includes UNICEF. And this still isn’t enough for liberals . . . and moderates. They want the federal government to assume even greater responsibility—and this means higher taxes, less disposable income, and a decrease in charitable donations. If this makes sense to you, fine. It doesn’t make any sense to me. And I question the Constitutionality of the federal government creating conditions here at home resulting in higher medical costs among seniors and our own needy, so that our government can provide free medications to people living in a fourth-world cesspool.

You may recall that we went to Somalia to help feed the people. I hope you also remember what happened there. The mind is like a parachute; it only works when it is open. Before you attempt to argue the merits of socialist government, do your homework.

Susannah said...

Great discussion here, friends. Thanks, Robert for the point-by-point approach. Agreed: identify, refrain, evaluate, involve, confront! The attitude we take is especially important, if we are to behave like true patriots who want the best for our country. My piece 'Forward We Go' addresses this from much the same perspective, & I'm very heartened to see likemindedness here.

rockync said...

Once again, Sam you use comments like "WE" support doctors without borders, etc. Who are "WE?" I also support Doctors Without Borders and Operation Smile and a few other local and international charities. So - who is this "WE" that I am not a part of?
I also am not aware of any current legislation on the table calling for hundreds of millions more forgeign aid - can you give me the bill information so I can go do my homework?
I'm sure there is much missionary work among conservatives but it seems you are insinuating that people with liberal or moderate views never volunteer for similar work - that sounds a bit prejudicial. Have you polled all the doctors and volunteers in the organizations you cited to see if any might have more lib or mod views? I don't think you actually talk to liberals or moderates much; sounds like you just make broad assumptions based on...?
I don't assume every conservative supports the KKK and their doctrine even though the members who actually admit to being clansmen invariably identify themselves as conservatives. There is a danger in putting too much emphasis on labels.
I'm not sure where you are going with the Somalia reference - I assume you are referring to the downing of two black hawks during an assualt that has come to be known as the First Battle of Mogadishu and the resulting atrocities committed upon the bodies of the crew of the second aircraft. Do you assume that I am somehow not horrified about what happened? In fact, our country was involved in a multinational UN effort to get food and supplies to Somalian civilians caught in the crossfire of a civil war called Operation Provide Relief and supported by our current President Bush so I'm not sure how this supports your contentions.
BTW - all those things you named that the "conservative" missionaries do are also some of the good works done by the Peace Corps.
(I COULD say something snarky about you doing YOUR homework, but I like to take the high road and treat everyone - including those with differing opinions - with respect).

TAO said...

Robert, Well, I can agree with just about everything on this post! I agree that Ronald Reagan was a true leader. He stood up for his beliefs and led this country into a brighter more positive time. I say that even though I use him as an example of where conservatives nowadays say one thing and then do another.

I do not believe that someone starts out being a moderate but I believe that one can see both sides of an argument...and can balance. I am a conservative and believe that all but basic government is bad...but I can also realize THAT FOR NOW, Obama was a good choice to bring balance to an unbalanced situation. With an economy in a situation as it is today smaller government and lower taxes are not an option...but as soon as he rights the boat then it is time to have a serious discussion.

I personally do not view foreign aid, peace corp, and or welfare as charity. I am not a big fan of charity and I definitely do not believe that the government should be in the charity business. But I do realize that without welfare we would have much higher crime rate and I also realize that unemployment is a benefit to business because full employment adds to wage inflation...so what do you do with people between jobs or unable to work? Its more a social management issue than a charity issue. I view foreign aid the same way. Its basically bribery. If you do not get the results or benefits then cut it off. But I am also against our military playing such a major role in the world...it is not our responsibility to nation build. Nor is it our responsibility to promote democracy and freedom...if a nation wants to be democratic then the people need to fight for it...for anything to be worthwile it must be paid for. Democracy and freedom are not gifts...

As we are the largest economy in the world then we need to learn to use that strength to our benefit. Basically, do what we want or we will not allow you to sell your products in the US.

As far as sweatshops overseas...not our problem but rather a problem that belongs to the workers and government in that country.

The environment is different...we are trustees of this earth and we should believe that we have a responsibity to leave it in better condition than we found it...

Sam Huntington said...

So - who is this "WE" that I am not a part of?

I was referring to the American people. I assumed you were an American. I apologize.

rockync said...

Sam, I am an American and since we were talking about conservatives, liberals and moderates, I assumed the "WE" you used referred to conservatives - so I must apologize for misunderstanding your reference.
Being from the South I'm accustomed to inclusiveness being stated as we all and ya'll. :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Robert! Wow, did I come at an interesting time.

"We must identify who we are and what we believe."

I think this is so very important. What I am seeing here is that we all call ourselves Conservatives, yet have some very different views. Small government is without a doubt our most urgent goal and the one thing we can all agree on.

Although I may have to pinch my nose to do it, I will support Obama on what I agree with and fight him for all I'm worth, when I don't. I will never do what the liberals have done to George Bush!

On the issue of charity, it should not come from the government. That is not the government's job. It is the individual that should decide what and to who the charity goes. Why should the government decide where my money should go. If I don't want to feed the people in Africa, that should be MY decision. I may be assuming too much here, but I feel that the Conservative approach is to let the individual decide. I think there are issues where you can be a moderate, but charity I don't think is one of them. You either want the government to control it or not.

I feel that our military is strong and needed. When there is a threat of nukes and terrorism we cannot afford to appear weak and defenseless!

Welfare gives no initiative for hard work. It encourages laziness. I have no problem helping someone get on their feet if they are having hard times, but to give away money, so someone can get their hair or nails done, I have a problem with. And before you jump all over me, I am not saying everyone is like that....I could feel that coming a mile away! :-)

Did I say good post Robert? LOL

rockync said...

Jenn, I think we need a stronger military than what we have. Our military has been devalued over several administrations, probably mostly so during the Clinton years. Benefits were cut, bases closed and quotas reduced. This country became complacent after the collapse of the Soviet Union and we need to let our representatives know that a rebuilding of our military might is a priority - not necessarily to conduct wars, but to hopefully prevent them.
My son separated from the military just a few years ago and the personnel problems were critical then. I can't imagine they are much better now which is why there are soldiers doing multiple tours and stop losses on many MOSs. Even me, a professed moderate, can see how important a strong military is. We are in such deep financial straits that I'm not sure where the money to fund expansion will come from, but it would be a better investment than putting it into the hands of corporate crooks. I'd much rather buy some kevlar vests for soldiers than give the AIG creeps another trip to some exotic retreat!

TRUTH-PAIN said...

Ooooh,... what a tasty morsel of comment-thread have I bumped into here....

I respect the comments made by Sam, as well as his counter-arguments to Rockync. In the same manner I read Rockync's view with care and detail since I always fashioned myself an independent with mostly Libertarian views. But instead of coming to a "centrist" defense, let me try a 3rd rail to this argument because I think some may interpret Sam's view as a form of absolute-ism, I see it as a choice of Ideology trumping Pragamtism.

If politics is the art of persuation, then pragmatism could be the art of what is doable. Speaking for myself, my blood and instincs as a person with developed opinions is clearly right of center,... maybe even closer to far right than even I realize. But as I look at the world, at my country, at our aging population and I look at how the explosion of media has changed the way socio-politcs is discussed, I have decided to pick my battles. There will always be right and left, socialism versus ruggedly conservative ethos, etc etc. I fashion centrism or in my case, Libertarinism as a natural corrective way to take those platform items that are "doable" from the left and right and forge them into some form of policy that can be helful to the full spectrum of the American experience. Goverment should benefit all people in some ways, ALL the time instead of the winner-takes-all mantras that are common in today's reality. In an equally divided country in terms of electorate, I am just wired to look for what we all have in common versus what my own individual view of society and country happens to be. I distrust socialism in its truest form of definition, but for me to say that the tens of millions of baby boomers who are just entering retirement will happily jump aboard my idea of VERY limited goverment is completely unrealistic because by nature, elderly people tend to be more insecure about their livelyhood and coming income. I am not judging whether its good, bad or irresponsible to depend on anybody else for sustenance. Nope, its just a fact. So in my mind, I prefer to steer the forces of what I see as the coming "soft" socialism of the American future towards a non cradle-to-grave mechanism that is more palatable to my vision. To be an ideologue in this issue is easy,... just stick to your guns and get the kudos from your politico brethren, great. But did you win hearts and minds not like yourself?...

Am I wussing out? probably. Am I not holding to the true pulling of my beliefs? Ok, I'll give you that. But go ahead and ask me if I care. To me, my own view of life is less important to me than what I think is the greater comfort of my country-men;... my own ideology be damned.

I get a lot of flak for being a so called conservative-independent-centrist,... and reading Mr. Huntington's view on centrism does not make me embarrased or irritable at his opinion of those like me. What is does do is make me re-double my efforts to ensure that my views are perceived as a viable and solid 3rd way of seeing socio-politics, instead of what is commonly believed to be a "fence sitter" position.


Robert, super post and the kind that makes the gray matter shake and bake...

Sam Huntington said...

TP, I join with Jenn and Robert welcoming you to this august group . . . at least, it was until they invited me to join the party. Thank you for your comments (above); I would only direct your attention to my first contribution, at the very top of this string. To reiterate, I sought to address principle. Western society assumes that principle is so strong it precludes anyone who honestly subscribes to them to forsake their principles. Like our oath to tell the truth, we presume honesty because we are an honorable society. It may not be possible to discern who among us is willing (or has, or will) compromise his or her principles by physical appearance, but when we get to know people, we understand differences in what they say from what they do.

For years, I considered myself a “moderate.” That is, I saw myself as someone who (as previously stated) distrusts “radical” anything. I felt that a moderate was one who is willing to look honestly and fairly at both sides of an issue, and then impartially choose which position comes closest to my own principles. I no longer see myself as a centrist, but I do not regard myself as a radical conservative, either. If you can imagine the “right side” of the political spectrum, I suppose I see myself in the center of that. This means that while I do not drool and repeat nauseous mantras, I do think that conservativism is the proper fit for American tradition — the way our founding fathers envisioned it, and this of course means that I am a dedicated proponent of our Constitution. My only question was, for those people who live within the center of our political spectrum, what principles do they hold dear? If it is both, then it is neither – and (again my opinion), if it is neither then it these people who are easily persuaded by socialists to “come over.” Naturally, the elitism and haughtiness of the so-called Marxist intelligentsia is attractive to some; by design. It is something to worry the conservative mindset.

But let us now consider the comments of another, who in making vague reference to the Patriot Act, suggests that Republicans are every bit fascist as Democrats are socialist. So far, I have tried to avoid party labels, but there you have it. Historically, however, it is the socialists who are the fascists, emphasizing men such as Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo — and lets also add Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson and Carter to that mix if only for the totalitarian way in which they imposed economic socialism upon the American people. I think that the European Union is a scary bunch of socialists, too. But in this matter of the Patriot Act, has the fascist FBI or other law enforcement agency ever arrested any law-abiding American citizen? No. Has any American citizen been denied their constitutional rights resulting from the Patriot Act, passed by the Congress of the United States, and upheld by the US Supreme Court? No. Has the Patriot Act saved the lives of innocent Americans (at home or abroad) because of the government’s ability to be able to listen to telephone conversations and other electronic communications originating in the Middle East? Yes. So now my question is, “Which political ideology provides the most safety to Americans?” If we assume that safety and security on behalf of our own countrymen is of utmost importance, how do we relegate that level of concern to becoming sensitive to the feelings of radical Islamacists who may also be US citizens? And then, how is it possible for anyone with liberal or conservative principles to assume a centrist position on this issue?

Tapline said...

Robert, Great read. I really admire what you are about to do. The journey will be long, but fulfilling. What you are trying to accomplish has taken years to materialize. I guess because of my age I keep looking at historical data and first hand observation. I have seen the swing that this nation as taken from responsible individuals to what we have today. except for individuals such as yourselves, people expect the government to take care of them and it is not only an expectation by a right. If you can change that mindset that the services government offers them is not a right but a service provided until they can provide for themselves, You have an uphill battle. That is the Welfare Nation that has been developed through the years. Good luck with your much needed endeavor. I ramble, but hope this makes sense.....

Robert said...

Tapline, thank you for the encouragement, but you just volunteered yourself! We need voices, especially those voices who lived through events and can help us with a hostorical reference point or at least an encouraging word.

COme back often. The road will be difficult at times! This small group has already seen that this is going to take WORK....so far this week we have put in at least 40 man(and woman) hours this week, and we are only at Friday...

Keep us enthused by pitching in...We are happy to have you here. Bring your cup, put your name on it, and leave it in the kitchen...there are hooks on the wall...

Susannah said...

Take a look @ Peggy Noonan's column today: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122661645637826105.html?mod=djemEditorialPage

Her voice has come back to an encouraging, measured tone. She gives us some things to think about.

(Tapline, I can smell the coffee from here!)

Robert said...

Susannah, thanks for that link. I think there are some valid points to the article, particularly about the "throwing long" aspect of the American voter. It is unsettling in the accuracy of the statements that few people really know what they are going to get the next four years.

Thanks for contributing...Kick your shows off and stay longer next time.

Susannah said...

Thanks, Robert. I intend to! I'm actually going out of town for the next several days, so I had to get a 'quick fix' this morning. I'll be back next Thurs. I'm sure you'll hold down the fort!