Where Republicans Went Wrong Is Where Conservatives Have Finally Gone, And It’s Working.
“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.”—D.W. Eisenhower
Ayn Rand is most notably remembered as the author of People ‘Atlas Shrugged’. Less than a decade after publishing that noteworthy book she published a book of essays titled “The Virtues of Selfishness” with then associate Nathaniel Branden. “The Virtues of Selfishness” attempted to describe the ethical issues associated with Rand’s free market objectivist theory.
Chapter 16, written by Branden, is titled “The Divine Right of Stagnation”. It’s topic is the belief that a person should be able to go to the same job every day and perform the same repetition every day for their entire working life, without having to be bothered to learn or grow. And it’s the belief that innovators who do learn and grow should be rebuked for disturbing other people’s routines.
“Capitalism, by its nature, entails a constant process of motion, growth and progress. It creates the optimum social conditions for man to respond to the challenges of nature in such a way as best to further his life. It operates to the benefit of all those who choose to be active in the productive process, whatever their level of ability. But it is not geared to the demands of stagnation.”
And, he adds, “Neither is reality.”
The GOP Was Forced To Face Reality
In 2011, I wrote a seven part series on the direction I believed the Mississippi Republican Party should move in order to influence the next generation and to remain a viable choice in a two-party system. The demographic data I studied to produce that series showed a clear trend–as it does today–towards a working class in this state that was becoming further removed from the increasingly big government, big business and big money message of the GOP. It also showed a growing poverty class of people, black Mississippians joined in larger numbers by whites, who have been displaced from the social traditions of their grandparents.
However, the audience was then and still is open to an intelligent discussion about what conservative policy can do for them and their children. A positive message that explains the connections between self-reliance and strong communities can still make great progress in a place like Mississippi regardless of race or socioeconomics.
The only way I saw then for the GOP to have a future in this state is to begin shifting it’s message toward the foundational strengths that still exist in Mississippi’s communities. The recent presidential election have only bolstered my belief in those conclusions. In other words, back towards the fundamental conservative ideals that lead to prosperity for the everyday ‘working Joe’, and encouraging those same people to share their values with others.
Mississippi is in a unique position to do that because of the strength of character that still exists in small towns across the state from people the GOP long ago dismissed because of their inability to pony-up thousands of dollars for fundraisers.
Obviously the GOP wasn’t interested in that conversation back then. They had to be pulled into it kicking and screaming.
Kicking And Screaming
The National GOP had to face this battle within its ranks because of Mississippi, so it was only fitting that the road to redemption also start here in the Magnolia State. It was lobbyist Haley Barbour as the GOP national chairman beginning in 1992 who engineered the big business/big money connections by working to downplay the connections to traditional values espoused by the majority of Mississippians and other traditional conservatives in America’s heartland.
Barbour continues that focus today and brings in millions in lobbying fees in the process. One of Barbour’s favorite lines over the years to push Republican’s to compromise is that “purity is an enemy of victory”.
The “purity” quote is a bastardized version of Milton Friedman’s call for a market driven monetary policy that has absolutely nothing to do with how Barbour has used it. It certainly wan’t intended as a rejection of a rational and intelligent discussion of the connection between traditional values and renewing communities. But the power that comes from money and control is far more enticing to many than renewal of a free-market society. Demonizing detractors as political purists offers the political establishment a catch-phrase to attempt to skirt the discussion entirely. Therein lies a major reason the split within the Republican Party occurred.
Rather than recognize the opportunity available in broadening the message of conservatism, the political establishment elected to double-down on divide-and-conquer political tactics and power plays to keep the money flowing to the right pockets. They nearly strangled the life out of the GOP.
My review of the demographic data in 2011 showed Mississippi could be one of the first solid “red states” to fall as a result. At the time I wrote that, it wasn’t clear that the Democrat Party would take such a hard left turn. It was also three years before the 2014 US Senate race in Mississippi where Barbour’s political games, via race-baiting, and “walking around money” were finally brought from the back rooms and placed out in the open for conservatives across the country to see.
And they were disgusted by it.
It has been said that people vote for their own personal interest. The truth is that such things are reserved for those who know they will see results. The majority of Conservative Mississippians and Americans don’t have those kind of direct political connections. Most people vote for the vision of what is possible for themselves and their children. Most just want an opportunity to prosper on their own merit. In 2016, after all they had seen, they recognized they could no longer ignore it and stay home.
It bears pointing out here that between the two clear non-establishment choices in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries, no other candidate ever got close!
People are awake now like they haven’t been in a generation. They know we as a country and a state are on a slippery slope with few options remaining to hang on. They feel the crush of policies that are decimating the middle class and increasing the distance between them and the political class. An intellectually honest discussion of conservative policy that builds bridges holds great promise.
Conservatives can’t be the group who just says “no”. We must be the group who points to policies and discusses their ramifications. We must be willing to honestly communicate the common good in Conservatism. We must be willing to discuss root causes and honest outcomes.
With Conservative interest across Mississippi and the country the opportunity to have these discussions has never been better. Conservatives will be performing an admirable service for the Republican Party; forcing it continue an uncomfortable family conversation that the party leaders had rejected in favor of hierarchy and status.
Trust In The Truth
Nearly 25 years ago a Mississippian led the charge to break the Republican Party from it’s conservative social moorings. It is clear that it was a mistake, and has taken the GOP and the country down a path towards destruction. Mississippians should be the ones to reconnect the truth of social conservatism and fiscal conservatism. This isn’t nor should it be a call for a “Religious Right” 2.0.
A free society that is socially irresponsible will become fiscally irresponsible. Likewise, a fiscally irresponsible society cannot long last without social values of honesty, charity and frugality to rein in spending. That seemingly logical conclusion is something traditional conservatives, fiscal conservatives and religious conservatives can all agree upon. It hardly matters whether we arrive at the same conclusion by traveling the same path to get there. What matters is we know, and we communicate to others the unavoidable truth.
Conservatives in Mississippi must intelligently engage the next generation about why their futures depend on connections to the wisdom of generations before, and why it is the only way to save freedom for their children and grandchildren. United Conservatives have begun that conversation on many college campuses across the state.
Now is not the time to revel in victory and go back to being blissfully ignorant. It is the time to honestly acknowledge the realities that surround us and dedicate ourselves to a strategy of growth and self-reliance. Contrary to what most people have been told by liberals, Conservatism is not about saying “NO”. It’s time the politically active dedicate ourselves to fully understanding what it truly is about and sharing that message with others.
Political power brokers will attack. They will name-call, and they will attempt to divide. They always have. But, if Conservatives will trust the wisdom of generations of Mississippians who know the connection between hard work, honesty, family, Faith and freedom; if we trust that putting communities first is key to reviving solutions, then we will begin to make changes in The state and country.
As Jim Wallis writes it in his book “God’s Politics”:
“You change society by changing the wind. Change the wind, transform the debate, recast the discussion, alter the context in which political discussions are being made, and you will change the outcomes… You will be surprised at how fast the politicians adjust to the change in the wind.”
The winds are blowing at gale force in politics these days. We should work together across communities to be sure they are blowing in the same direction, and that everyone has a clear idea of which way to set their sails.
At United Conservatives we are committed to doing our part to make sure conservatives of all stripes are informed, organized and working to keep the wind blowing strong in a positive direction and, to quote Branden, “to the benefit of all those who choose to be active in the productive process, whatever their level of ability.”