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Feder's Rules For A Conservative Resurgence (Part II)
GrassTopsUSA Exclusive Commentary
By Don Feder
12/17/2012


         Toward the end of his presidency, Calvin Coolidge said of his presumptive successor, Herbert Hoover (who he regularly derided as “Wonder Boy”), “That man has offered me unsolicited advice every day for six years, all of it bad.”

         In the aftermath of the 2012 election, the conservative movement is swamped with unsolicited advice, much of it ranging from the bad to the bizarre, to the atrocious.

         It comes from consultants whose reputation is built on running losing campaigns, domesticated conservative commentators for the mainstream media, pragmatists who are willing to jettison the principals they’ve never really believed in for a few extra percentage points of the vote and wingnuts who view Romney/Ryan’s loss as God’s punishment for insufficient purity, instead of monumental stupidity.

 

 

         As an antidote to this flatulence, here is Part II of Feder’s Rules for A Conservative Resurgence.

         Unlike the advice from a lot of Ronnies-come-lately, it’s based on almost 50 years of fighting for the cause, beginning with Students for Goldwater in 1963 and going through Young Americans for Freedom in the 1960s, the anti-tax and gun-owners movements in the ‘70s, writing a syndicated column from 1983 to 2002, and a decade of organizing – including putting on conferences (both national and international), running petition drives, publishing newsletters and attempting to forge single-issue coalitions, while lecturing, writing and trying to bring a cold dose of reality to residents of the Happy Land of Make-Believe.

        
16. Choose your allies carefully – Libertarians being a case in point. Along with faith and family, freedom is an important part of the conservative message. For libertarians, it’s the entire the message.

         Like Marxists, libertarians refuse to let reality intrude on their utopian fantasies. Due to a misapplication of the principle of personal liberty, they embrace leftist positions on abortion, drug legalization and assisted suicide. They don’t understand that liberty can’t exist in a vacuum – that it must grow naturally out of a social order grounded in traditional values and constitutional government.

         Alliances of convenience are sometimes justified to achieve common goals (such as lower taxes and Second Amendment rights). But there’s an inherent danger. When conservatives work closely with libertarians, it promotes the fallacy – especially among the young and uninformed – that libertarianism is synonymous with conservatism. This leads unthinking conservatives to fall for the argument that libertarian social positions, which are immoral as well a wildly impractical, are somehow logical extensions of the conservative defense of freedom.

         On the other hand, there are Muslims, who seem to agree with social conservatism. Pro-family leaders who work at the United Nations often push alliances with Islamic member states to defeat the far-left agenda on marriage and life issues.

         While Islam is not about to be confused with conservatism, said collaboration leads the unwary to believe that we share common ground with a death cult masquerading as a religion. But, unlike conservatism, Islam has no respect for individual rights and representative government. (Islam literally means “submission.”) While ostensibly promoting family values, Muslim militants are busy killing Christian and Jewish families in the Islamic world.

         Muslim spokesmen – who have an abiding hatred for America and the West – are natural allies of the left, not the right, witness liberal acquiescence to creeping Sharia, and its laments about “Islamophobia,” as well as an administration that describes mass murder in the name of Allah as “workplace violence.”

        
17. Don’t’ whine about the news media - It’s boring, futile and demoralizing. Complaining about media bias has become clichéd. To say the media is biased against conservatives – that they endlessly repeat leftist lies on a broad range of issues – is like saying Democrats steal elections or Hamas doesn’t particularly like Jews.

         It's true the media does considerable damage by routinely caricaturing conservative positions, slandering our candidates and leaders and ignoring news it finds inconvenient (Benghazi-gate).

         Media Research Center and Accuracy In Media do excellent work documenting and analyzing media bias, which serves a useful purpose, especially among those still naïve enough to believe that the media report the news instead of manufacturing it.

         But conservatives who obsess about the media do us no favor. It doesn’t help to advance the notion that the media are an insurmountable obstacle to conservative victories. If they were, what then accounts for 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1994, 2000, 2004 and 2010?

         Network news shows had substantially larger audiences, and daily newspapers more readers, in 1980 than today. (Average daily viewers of ABC, CBS and NBC nightly newscasts fell from slightly over 50 million in 1980 to 23.7 million in 2011.) Then, conservative talk radio was in its infancy. (Rush Limbaugh was four years away from his first talk-radio gig in Sacramento.) The Internet was a dream of geeks in garages. Today, conservatives dominate talk radio. FOX is the most popular network. All exert a powerful anti-establishment influence.

         When it comes to shaping the public unconsciousness, Hollywood exerts far more influence than what Limbaugh calls the drive-by media – though both create their own reality.

         Regarding the mainstream media, our strategy should be attack, expose and (in some cases) boycott. But don’t exaggerate their influence to the point of depressing the conservative base.

        
18. Don’t write off almost half the electorate because they don’t pay a particular tax – Romney’s “not elegantly stated” (now, there’s an understatement) 47% remark was the most damaging he made in the campaign. In May, he told donors at a Boca Raton fundraiser that the 47% of Americans (or so) who pay no federal taxes see themselves as “victims,” won’t take responsibility for their lives and will vote for Obama “no matter what.” The party of plunder had a field day with that one, and it cost Romney with lower middle-class voters.

         The Governor was also dead wrong. While many on Social Security pay no federal income tax, the elderly are among the most reliable Republican voters. A hard-working family with two children and a net income of $35,000 also pays no income tax (thanks to the child-tax credit and various exemptions and deductions) – not my idea of the mooch-ocracy.

         Those who don’t pay the federal income tax often pay a plethora of other taxes, including payroll taxes, sales taxes and real estate taxes. Rather than just writing them off, a wiser approach is to explain the burden of government to them, in terms of inflation, lost jobs and lost opportunities. An April Gallup poll found 50% of those earning under $30,000 think they pay too much in taxes.

         Even after he dismissed them as leeches impervious to appeals to reason, Romney still ended up with the support of 35% of voters who make less than $30,000 annually and 42% of those who make between $30,000 and $49,999.

         The 47% theory is economic determinism (an idea better suited to Marxists than conservatives): How you vote is determined by what you earn and pay in taxes. In reality, voters make their decisions based on any number of factors – including patriotism (especially among the elderly and veterans), faith (in the case of evangelicals and traditional Catholics) and commitment to single issues like the right-to-life, gun ownership and support for Israel

         If wealth conferred political intelligence, Ted Turner, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, George Soros and Google CEO Larry Page would be writing checks to the Heritage Foundation instead of supporting digital Marxism, like MoveOn.org. In 2012, Obama was supported by 44% of those earning $100,000 or more, his punish-the-rich and you-didn’t-build-it rhetoric notwithstanding.

         Jews tend to be high income-earners and loyal Democratic voters. The cliché is true: Jews have the incomes of Episcopalians and the voting habits of Hispanics. 

         Income is a poor predicator of political behavior.

        
19. If you must run for political office, try not to make a damned fool of yourself – Think it through beforehand. What’s your budget? How do you plan to raise it? What issues will you emphasize? What are the demographics of your district? Which officeholders will support you?

         And why should anyone vote for you anyway? Don’t assume that rattling off right-wing positions will result in a landslide victory.

         What political experience do you have? Have you ever held office – elective or appointive? Besides your views, what qualifies you to serve in the state legislature, Congress or the U.S. Senate? While liberals start with local office, build a base and work their way up, many conservatives think any office less exalted than governor or Congress is beneath them.

         Educational campaigns are a poor investment of time and resources. Louis B. Mayer once famously remarked to someone who said he wanted to make message movies: “If you want to send a message, go to Western Union.”

         Successful campaigns deal with ideas. But it’s rare that minds are changed by sound bites. Winning campaigns are more about mobilizing than educating – reaching the apathetic and uncommitted by convincing them that they have a stake in the election’s outcome.

         Changing hearts and minds is the job of conservative think tanks, websites, talk-shows, columnists and Tea Party rallies – not conservative candidates.

        
20. You can’t sell a product you don’t really understand – Conservatism is an integrated political philosophy (based on mankind’s accumulated wisdom at governance), not a string of slogans. Many who call themselves conservatives, even activists, are ignorant of the fundamentals of conservatism. They think lower marginal tax rates and less regulation, combined with the private ownership of AK 47s, are the essence of conservatism. While the defense of private property, limited government and the right to self-defense are conservative values, they are peripheral not fundamental.

         Conservatism rests on three pillars – faith, family and freedom. Weakening any one compromises the entire structure.

         Conservatives understand that without a large degree of freedom (to earn and dispose of our income, raise our children, speak our minds, and follow our conscience in matters of religion), individuals can’t achieve their potential and life is hardly worth living.

         Family is the bedrock of society and cradle of civilization. Without it, social order is impossible.

         Just as conservatism speaks to political truth, religion speaks to eternal truth. Like the family, society doesn’t work without God-based morality. As the idea of God fades from our consciousness, so does civility, honesty, decency and the work ethic.

         How can we sell a worldview we barely understand? The essence of conservatism can’t be conveyed between commercials. No one should aspire to the mantle of conservatism who hasn't at least read “The Conservative Mind: from Burke to Eliot” by Russell Kirk, “Witness” by Whittaker Chambers and “Modern Times: The World From The Twenties to the Nineties” by Paul Johnson.

        
21. Neither an interventionist nor an isolationist be – American military and foreign policy are too important to be based on inflexible dogma. Two overriding criteria should guide us: 1. Is a proposed intervention based on America’s just national interests? and 2. Will the benefits outweigh the cost?

         With 58,282 American KIA and non-combat deaths, Vietnam is considered the classic failure of intervention. But was it? Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia fell, but the rest of Southeast Asia did not, thanks to our stand in Vietnam. Unquestionably, it was in America’s national interests to stop the advance of communism internationally.

         Following 9/11, overthrowing the Taliban and getting al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan seemed to be a priority. But after 2,000 U.S. deaths, and at a cost of $1.2 trillion, what have we accomplished? Our alleged Afghan allies are almost as incompetent as they are unreliable. Within months of a total U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban will be back in power.

         International Islam is as much a threat to America today as international communism was during the Cold War. But how should that threat be met: By expending massive amounts of blood and money on a futile quest to create democracies in the Muslim world, while we allow radical Islam to gain a foothold in this country and pretend that a creed that’s never shown the least inclination toward peaceful coexistence is the “religion of peace”?

         Intervention should be the last resort, not the first. It should never be motivated by altruism (e.g., a crusade to spread democracy abroad). When we go in, it should be with clearly defined, achievable goals – and both barrels blazing.

 

  Part I of Feder's Rules For A Conservative Resurgence can be found here.

Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains his own website, DonFeder.com.