Let’s face it. In the most optimistic scenario conservatives can imagine for November 6, Mitt Romney defeats Barack Obama by a whopping five points, carrying Ohio, Virginia and Florida by narrow margins. Wow. What a resounding victory for conservatism!
That this is the most optimistic scenario we can imagine should be a wake-up call to conservatives: If only half of the voters are willing to repudiate Obama’s economic failures, unconstitutional acts and radical redistributionist agenda, then our nation is so far down the road to serfdom that restoring constitutional liberty may well be a lost cause.
The pessimists among us believe it is too late and all we can do is hold ground and hope for a miracle. The optimists think we can still reverse course and restore constitutional principles if about a dozen very difficult tasks are accomplished during Romney’s first term.
The root of the political problem for constitutional liberty is, of course, the cultural meltdown we have experienced since the 1960s. Our nation is now divided between people who celebrate the traditional values of American individualism, personal responsibility, free enterprise and limited government, and those who champion the values of collective action and “social justice.” This November’s election will tell us how far this culture of entitlement has spread.
The political dilemma for those of us who cherish America’s heritage of ordered liberty is that our party, the GOP, seems wedded to a mindset that must be called a strategic myopia. The Republican establishment is content to slow the growth of government, but has no plan to reverse it — because it has swallowed the leftist, historicist propaganda that the trend cannot be reversed. Thus, it not only has no strategy for downsizing government, it has no desire to develop a strategy.
Conservatives see this Republican game plan as fatally flawed — all defense and no offense. This has been painfully illustrated over the past two years by the GOP House’s struggle to significantly cut federal spending.
What’s more, conservative Republicans and tea party patriots have reason to worry about the resolve and adequacy of the Romney team. If Romney wins, conservatives must make sure that his administration doesn’t ignore the issues that are essential to reversing our nation’s downward spiral of decline. The policy goals of a serious conservative agenda would look beyond tax policy and spending control to institutional reforms designed to change the political dynamics of the next decade. Some of those reforms will sound radical, but no more radical than what Obama has in mind for his second term. The difference is this: While Obama’s team is serious about transforming America, the GOP is not yet serious about returning our institutions to their constitutional moorings.
Too many Republican leaders and pundit-strategists want to forget that the tea party came into existence and prospered because of a vacuum in Republican strategic ambitions. Halting the growth of the national debt and setting a definite deadline for balancing the budget are policy goals that were forced on the House Republican leadership by organized grassroots pressure. Even today, those goals are disparaged and undermined by the Republican Party’s Beltway consultants and professional pundits, just as they continue to downplay border security and immigration enforcement despite those issues’ persistent popularity.
The Republican establishment needs to realize that the grassroots tea party revolt of 2010 is only a taste of what is to come if the Romney presidency proves to be a third Bush term. The Romney-Ryan team will have one year to prove itself capable of not only governing, but changing America’s trajectory. If it fails to do so, the rise of a serious third party movement is inevitable.
It may be that it is indeed too late, that America’s decline is inevitable and irreversible. What we do know for certain is that unless we set our goals high enough, we cannot tell our children and grandchildren truthfully that we did all we could to preserve constitutional liberty.
The progressive movement has succeeded in setting the social welfare state on autopilot. Unless we have the courage to flip that switch off and take control, a crash landing is imminent.
Taking our challenge seriously means looking beyond November 6. After reclaiming the White House, we must reclaim our country.
Tom Tancredo represented Colorado’s 6th Congressional District from 1999 until 2009. While in Congress, he chaired the bipartisan, 100-plus-member Immigration Reform Caucus. He currently serves as chairman of Team America PAC and The Rocky Mountain Foundation.