When a bullet whizzes past your head, and the sniper who’s aiming at you seems to have run out of ammo, what’s the right thing to do? Should you:
a) Assume that he has given up, and that it’s now safe for you to walk around wearing your Target™ logo t-shirt.
b) Decide that you are bulletproof, and saunter over to negotiate from a position of newfound strength. Or:
c) Bind your most serious wounds, and try to nail him before he reloads.
This is the question conservatives need to answer right away, while the sniper is scrambling. Our window of opportunity is narrow, and our foe will swiftly regroup and resume his assault. The best paid brains of the Democratic Party and their tame journalists are already trying to spin the left’s repudiation by the voters as a victory for the left. Writers at the New York Times reported the news that the Republicans had won crushing, surprise victories all across the country as a triumph for the “Republican establishment,” which had managed to quash “extremist” candidates in the primaries and present electable “centrists.”
The cool heads in the party, this narrative claims, led Republicans to an interim victory by taking real conservative proposals off the table, and promising instead to implement leftist programs more efficiently. We took the wheel of the schoolbus that is speeding toward the Grand Canyon, and slowed it down from 90 mph to a smooth, safe 55.
But the facts of the election say otherwise. Most prominently, we see the failure of Scott Brown in New Hampshire to sell himself as a pro-choice, socially “moderate” and fiscally conservative Republican. Establishment Republicans who thought it was a brilliant idea to move this Massachusetts retread to neighboring New Hampshire argued that this centrist state with libertarian leanings was a perfect battleground for Brown. But by sacrificing the passion of Christian and prolife voters, Brown back-handed the workers and activists who sweat to turn out the vote — unlike that state’s other senator, Kelly Ayotte, who stands solidly in the party’s pro-life mainstream. Here is the lesson of Brown’s second failure to sell unprincipled “centrism” in New England. Let’s hope that the party learns it, and that Brown finds his natural home as a registered Democrat dog-catcher in Waltham, Mass.
Jon Stewart of The Daily Show is right: The face of the future Republican party is young, diverse, and socially conservative — like Utah’s Mia Love, who was just elected to Congress on a solidly pro-life and pro-marriage platform. If Republicans hope to cross ethnic and demographic lines and win broad-based support, the main issues which will resonate are those of universal human significance: the sanctity of life, the integrity of the family, and other truths of human nature that aren’t color-coded or goaded by ethnic groupthink. Mia Love may be the first black woman ever elected to Congress by the Republicans — but if the party sticks to its principles, she will be far from the last.
If conservatives treat our recent victory as a triumph, or conclude that we have made our country safe by retaking the Senate, then leftist prophecies will surely fulfill themselves, and this election will prove to be just a medium-sized speed bump on the road to socialism. We must remember just how much damage the left has done to America over the years — damage which must not simply be slowed down but reversed, or else our homeland will share the depressing fate of secularized, statist nations like most of western Europe.
In countries like France and Spain the issue isn’t whether the country is in irreversible decline, with shrinking native populations and economies stagnated by massive bureaucracies. All that is a given. The European Union is not an alliance but a hospice for dying countries receiving pain management and palliative care. Politics over there are mostly a squabble over how much morphine to administer, and which strangers will inherit the ruins.
Conservatives reject euthanasia, even for aging nations. We don’t accept that our own rather young republic is doomed to a future of a constantly growing government and diminishing population; of civil society constantly under assault by judges and federal bureaucrats; of states surrendering their power to the Feds; of local mores being homogenized by government fiat to suit the preferences of Manhattan and Hollywood; of today’s politicians trampling the timeless values of our Constitution; of our nation’s borders being controlled not by citizens but human traffickers; of human life being devalued to meet the latest demands of the sexual revolution.
It is not that we think that such changes are being implemented too quickly or inefficiently. We know that such changes are toxic, incompatible with life in a free and prosperous country. The America favored by leftists and their tame “moderate” allies is one of radical personal freedom, to live however you wish, and expect other people to pay the price. In that America, dilettantes can take out $80,000 in student loans to pursue degrees in ceramics or women’s studies — and later demand an “amnesty” for the cost of their youthful folly. Unrepentant foreign nationals who pierced our unguarded borders demand another sort of amnesty.
Men can indulge their impulse for promiscuity and leave the moral cost to be paid by women and children, with a credit card at the abortionist’s office. The current generation can borrow trillions of dollars to ease its journey through life with countless government subsidies, and benefits — and leave it to its grandchildren to stagger under the deficit. We can wink at radical Islam and court congratulations for our “tolerance,” and leave it to blue-collar kids who sign up as soldiers to clean up the mess.
The adolescent selfishness that big government and libertine morals encourage will kill any free society. Unless we take responsibility for our choices, the state will take them away. It will have to. Someone has to manage the clashing self-interests and animal instincts of almost 300 million people. If people won’t do that themselves, within the boundaries of just but minimal laws, then the state will gladly step in and do the job. Read Brave New World, or visit the Netherlands, to see how that turns out.
There is only one question, finally, in politics: Whether we rule ourselves or others rule us. It was left unanswered by this election. In 1999, the great conservative activist Paul Weyrich wondered aloud, toward the end of his life, why conservative electoral victories — like the one we just finished celebrating — never really seemed to matter, since they barely slowed the march of leftist principles and policies. His conclusion was pessimistic: He feared that modern man is fully beguiled by the promise of feckless freedom, of the “right” to live as a perpetual spoiled teenager, whatever the final price. I pray that he was mistaken. Nothing would make Mr. Weyrich happier, now that he has gone to his rest, than for us hunker down and prove it.
John Zmirak is co-author of The Race to Save Our Century.