Despite everything, conservative ideas still resonate strongly with many Americans and definitely have a future. But a simple victory is not enough.
This is because the present victory does not explain everything. While conservatives just won in 2014, they lost in 2012, and 2008. The nation is polarized and we experience the see-saw cycle of elections that violently oscillates between the two major parties.
The problem is that America is a conservative nation but not necessarily a traditional one. We like to “conserve” and rightly enjoy our comfortable and prosperous way of life. We desire to “conserve” frozen and immobile a vision of America where all agree to get along while each freely pursues his own happiness. The left and right both present their own version of this America. Thus the see-saw battles of the last decades represent a “conservative” phenomenon regardless of who wins.
The country might be likened to a boat. When liberals bring everyone over to their side of the vessel in an election, it starts to list dangerously to the left. This prompts the ship’s passengers to pull to the right in the next election to stabilize and keep the ship balanced and comfortable.
As long as the ship was in calm seas and shifts small, such an arrangement appears to have worked well. Prior to the seventies, the two political parties, although different, played by the rules of not rocking the boat too much. They managed to maintain the balance that allowed for smooth navigation and good times aboard.
However, beginning in the sixties, America started to navigate in troubled water. The consensus to play by the rules was broken. We lost our moral compass and the ship was left dangerously adrift toward chaos. Violent shifts on the left destabilized our American order which led to strong and very essential reactions on the right. Polarization has set in as each side reacted to the other with greater intensity. Every election becomes a must-win proposition; each one more important than the last.
Thus, see-saw battles take place. When conservatives call for sacrifices, less deficits or moral restraints to remedy liberal excesses and license, electorates often pull back and embrace the liberal cause anew.
On the surface, this seems to have happened in the 2014 elections as Obamacare and other issues represented a violent lurch to the left and the public reacted with a massive shift to the right to restabalize the country and return to normality.
However, this was not a normal election. Neither port nor starboard captured the imagination of the electorate. The electorate was sullen, stupefied, and absent. There was a profound and fundamental discontent in all sectors against all parties. Voters questioned not just the angle of the deck but the rudderless course that the nation is following as we head into a storm.
One could sense fears in the electorate that go beyond ship deck politics. On the horizon are the storms of ISIS, Ebola and economic collapse. There is moral decay in the family, community and Church that is the cause of much affliction. Above all, there is the unsettling sense that the comfortable normalcy that we have tried so hard to “conserve” over the decades has been hollowed out – and there is nothing to replace it.
And that is why a conservative victory now is not enough. Conservatives need to address the important issue of where we need to go—the course of the ship. We do not need the safety of value-neutral employment schemes or financial stimuli that are already being promised by opportunists capitalizing on the elections.
We cannot continue sidestepping important moral issues that are essential to the survival of the nation. We must free ourselves of the illusion that victory consists of avoiding anything controversial.
Now is the time to reflect and debate ideas as to the course we must choose. If we take this time to articulate those principles, ideas, and moral values around which we might rally, we will position ourselves to weather the storms and return to order.
If however conservatives fail to plot a course, they will condemn themselves to yet more see-saw battles where the electorate will award the prize to the party that gives them the most advantages—whether it be tax breaks, entitlement benefits or any other modern “bread and circus” programs.
We need to have the daring to transcend the “unheroic” standards of our comfortable materialism.
Americans want direction not ambiguity. The future belongs to those with the courage to brave unpopularity, take calculated risks and reject political correctness. They must be willing to admit there is a moral right and wrong. Above all, they must not be afraid to get on their knees and ask God’s help and blessings upon America.