What Is the Future of Conservatism in the Wake of the 2012 Election?
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To see the replies of 52 other writers to this same question, click here. For a thoughtful appraisal of the symposium as a whole, see "Thirteen thoughts on the future of American conservatism" by Tim Montgomerie.
Like so many other conservatives, I had come to assume that the Tea Party, the 2010 election results, Solyndra, 8 percent unemployment, Benghazi, and an aroused opposition (said one Romney adviser: on election day, "you just don't want to get in the way of a Republican heading into the polls") assured defeat for Barack Obama's bid for a second term. His victory was therefore particularly bitter. Was I alone in sleeping badly and avoiding the news for days?
So many analyses have been proffered for what went wrong: Romney was too conservative or not conservative enough, he ran on his biography, he shied away from winning issues, he could not connect with the masses. So many conclusions have also been drawn: conservatives need to modernize (hello, gay partnerships), they must reach out to non-whites (welcome, illegal immigrants), they should nominate true conservatives.
Myself, I subscribe to the "politics is downstream from culture" argument. While conservatives sometimes prevail in policy debates, they consistently lose in the classroom, on the best-seller list, on television, at the movies, and in the world of arts. These liberal bastions, which provide the feeders for Democratic party politics, did not develop spontaneously but result from decades of hard work traceable back to the ideas of Antonio Gramsci.
Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Happily, American conservatives have a counter-establishment already in place: the Wall Street Journal and Fox News Channel may be best known, but the Bradley Foundation, Pepperdine University, the Liberty Film Festival, and Commentary matter no less. Yes, conservative institutions rarely enjoy the history, resources, and prestige of their liberal counterparts – but they do exist, they are growing, and they possess a convincing and optimistic message.
It will be a long, hard road to traverse, but there is no short cut and it can succeed.
Mr. Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2012 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation.
John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation.
Republican success in state and local politics is an underreported story. … The post-2012 talk of conservatism's electoral weakness and policy failures is disconnected from the personal experiences of many politicians, journalists, analysts, and activists who work at the state and local levels. While grassroots conservatives were disappointed at the reelection of President Obama and Republican misfires in races for the U.S. Senate, they continue to enjoy unprecedented influence and success in state capitals — while local liberals feel alienated from the governments and institutions they long dominated.
A few facts:
Even after giving up some of their 2010 legislative gains thanks to Obama's 2012 coattails, Republicans still control more state offices than they have in generations. They hold 30 of 50 state governorships and 58 of 98 partisan legislative chambers. The nonprofit news service Stateline reports that in 25 states, comprising 53 percent of the U.S. population, the GOP controls both the executive and the legislative branch. Only 13 states, with 30 percent of the U.S. population, have unified Democratic governments. In addition, Republicans are strongly represented in local government, albeit primarily at the county level rather than in the increasingly Democratic big cities. In some states, such as my native North Carolina, the GOP's local success has no modern precedent: A majority of the state's 100 county governments are now under Republican control, which hasn't been the case since General Sherman's army was camped outside Raleigh.
Hood notes an little-observed pattern:
Another way to think about these political trends is as a giant switcheroo. From 1968 to 1988, Republicans won popular-vote majorities in five of six presidential elections while Democrats were firmly ensconced as the majority party of state governments and the U.S. House. But from 1992 to 2012, Democrats have won popular-vote majorities in five of six presidential elections while Republicans have gained the advantage in House races and the states. (Control of the U.S. Senate hasn't precisely tracked the other results.)
The result is an optimism about making a difference:
In the past, many able conservatives took a look at their bleak post-election prospects and decided against running for governor, the legislature, or county office. Now, many of them seek office with the expectation not only of winning in November but also of winning subsequent battles over taxes, government spending, regulation, education, and other issues they care about. Greatly improved candidate recruitment has proved to be one cause of Republican political success at the state and local level. …
Often without a great deal of national attention, conservatives have turned their electoral victories in the states into legislative victories on many policy issues. These victories include Wisconsin's initiatives on tort reform and public-sector unionization, Michigan's passage of right-to-work protection, the implementation of criminal- and civil-justice reforms in Texas, and successful referenda in a dozen states — nearly all governed by Republican majorities — to enact constitutional amendments outlawing eminent-domain abuse. These victories are important not only on their own terms but also because they can build institutional knowledge, conservative confidence, and momentum for future battles, including those in the nation's capital.
Hood concludes that "the conservative movement should stop wallowing in its recent failures and start studying and replicating its recent successes. You'll find those successes, and most conservatives, far from the banks of the Potomac."
Dec. 11, 2014 update: The 2014 electioins have more than vindicated Hood's interpretation. Jamelle Bouie details this for Slate in "Down and Out: The Democratic Party's losses at the state level are almost unprecedented, and could cripple it for a long time to come."
|Republican not = conservative [81 words]||Yosi Derman||Feb 28, 2013 14:21||203936|
|Alternative For Conservatives [25 words]||Clifford Ishii||Jan 26, 2013 15:13||202815|
|Denying Evil [169 words]||Mike Franklin||Jan 19, 2013 16:49||202674|
|ignorance prevails..... [61 words]||Tom||Jun 10, 2013 14:17||202674|
|The sin of the despondency [60 words]||Ben||Jan 13, 2013 16:05||202587|
|3||Bleak Future for Conservatism [475 words]||Ali Baba||Jan 12, 2013 00:48||202573|
|2||Proverbial foolishness at its best [415 words]||DEBORAH THE JUDGE||Jan 17, 2013 12:34||202573|
|1||Typical response of the Ultra-Conservative [628 words]||Ali Baba||Jan 18, 2013 00:52||202573|
|Amazing analysis [48 words]||Nick||Jan 19, 2013 06:04||202573|
|Way to go Ali Baba!! Love it [64 words]||Nick||Jan 19, 2013 06:23||202573|
|1||Keep following the red bricked road [356 words]||DEBORAH THE JUDGE||Jan 19, 2013 19:07||202573|
|Apologies [297 words]||Ali Baba||Jan 19, 2013 21:42||202573|
|Thanks Nick! [12 words]||Ali Baba||Jan 21, 2013 04:17||202573|
|1||Funny thing about God [145 words]||DEBORAH THE JUDGE||Jan 22, 2013 17:13||202573|
|Enough of your lame propaganda "Ali Baba" [528 words]||Shishir||Mar 12, 2013 07:56||202573|
|defining element of us political culture [197 words]||myth||Jan 8, 2013 01:40||202511|
|1||The Future of Conservatism May Be Its Past [796 words]||Sigmund||Jan 6, 2013 15:12||202465|
|2||High marx [29 words]||Joel||Jan 8, 2013 00:57||202465|
|Good News [131 words]||Sigmund||Jan 9, 2013 07:32||202465|
|Marx brothers [25 words]||Joel||Jan 14, 2013 06:00||202465|
|What is the future of Conservativism in the Wake of the 2012 Election. [170 words]||Anne||Jan 6, 2013 08:24||202448|
|Stupidity of the electorate [198 words]||Will||Jan 7, 2013 02:34||202448|
|1||There would have been a difference in philosophies. response to Will [173 words]||Anne||Jan 7, 2013 22:44||202448|
|I agree, but... [147 words]||Will||Jan 9, 2013 04:39||202448|
|Changing philsophies from that of Big Government can do alot for the people. response to Will. [134 words]||Anne||Jan 10, 2013 18:41||202448|
|It's not just the culture... [150 words]||Homefront||Jan 5, 2013 19:30||202437|
|Charles Johnson? [30 words]|
w/response from Daniel Pipes
|Gabriel||Jan 5, 2013 13:05||202434|
|Blog [6 words]||Gabriel||Jan 7, 2013 03:03||202434|
|1||A liberal's responds [286 words]||Gunther Schiff||Jan 4, 2013 13:41||202418|
|Partial Response to Gunther [204 words]||Straight_Talk_Luigi||Jan 5, 2013 12:48||202418|
|1||Liberal La-la Land [312 words]||Will||Jan 6, 2013 17:40||202418|
|3||Stop the liberals lying and destructive freight train ... [94 words]||NuritG||Jan 4, 2013 03:04||202404|
|The Cost of the American 2012 Election - And Was It Worth It? [678 words]||M. Tovey||Jan 3, 2013 12:50||202377|
|5||It Wasn't About Conservatism [193 words]||Gene Taglia||Jan 3, 2013 12:25||202375|
|Election results [293 words]||Straight_Talk_Luigi||Jan 5, 2013 12:38||202375|
|And then some [221 words]||DEBORAH THE JUDGE||Jan 8, 2013 22:57||202375|
|Culture versus Romney [66 words]||Dennis Schneider||Jan 3, 2013 11:55||202372|
|yes, "politics is downstream from culture" - I wrote as much a few yrs ago: [585 words]||Mark||Jan 3, 2013 11:41||202370|
|6||Government schools create liberals [278 words]||Susan||Jan 3, 2013 10:37||202366|
|But Wait Until These Same Children Become Adults And Get Out Into The "Real World" [48 words]||AnneM||Jan 4, 2013 07:17||202366|
|1||the need of adulthood [250 words]||Mary H. Stewart||Jan 3, 2013 08:30||202363|
|Conservatives optimistic, yes—but convincing? [59 words]||Will||Jan 3, 2013 06:46||202361|
|4||Liberalism appeals to all the baser appetites [702 words]||Keith||Jan 6, 2013 00:36||202361|
|2||A Centrist Catholic's Response to the truly dangerous Christofascists pretending to be "Conservatives" [1432 words]||rob the guy||Jan 29, 2013 18:29||202361|
|1||Todays "Conservatives" are a contradictory mix of fearful and spiteful groups with competing agendas ... [1138 words]||GW||Feb 4, 2013 14:03||202361|
|Further comments [158 words]||GK||Feb 5, 2013 10:56||202361|
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