The conventional wisdom holds that conservatism is in trouble because the GOP is in trouble. But the two are not one and the same. Indeed, the GOPâ€™s conservative principles arenâ€™t necessarily the main reason for its unpopularity. Arguably, Republicansâ€™ failure to adhere to their principles when in power hurt them more. The most recent Pew Research Center report on â€œTrends in Political Values and Core Attitudesâ€ finds that 37 percent of Americans describe themselves as conservative, while only 19 percent describe themselves as liberal. And conservative principles are still competitive, even after eight years of Bush, a staggering recession, and the most popular Democratic president in nearly a half-century. A majority of respondents say the â€œfederal government controls too much of our daily livesâ€ and that â€œgovernment regulation of business usually does more harm than good.â€Obviously, the GOP is not in an enviable position. But conservatives have been in worse shape countless times before. What they have done each and every time is argue their way forward. Goldwater, Reagan, and Gingrich each mounted conservative victories by making arguments for their cause.
The clichÃ© is that politics is about â€œaddition,â€ and the GOP needs to add more Hispanics, or gays, or women to its coalition, as if such descriptors define people more than their individual aspirations. Republicans will never win that fight, nor should they try to out-bean-count the Democrats. Persuasion should trump the pandering of â€œaddition.â€ Conservatives must argue why they are right, not endlessly apologize for their alleged wrongs.
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