The Washington Times - December 28, 2012, 11:08AM

It’s been easy sport for pundits and critics to declare conservatism either dead or dying in the weeks following the presidential election. An extreme makeover, they say, is the only remedy.

“I have a little different message for conservatives. It’s time to go deeper,” counters David Davenport, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, and a contributor to Forbes magazine.

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“Politics is only the shallow topsoil of the American political debate. It’s easily blown about by campaign ads and rhetoric, influenced by momentum and even hairstyles,” he says, observing, “Doubtless mistakes were made, as they say, at the political level in 2012. But the real work of conservatives now is not at that superficial, topsoil level, it is in the deeper soil of policy and the tap root of values where conservatives need to toil now.”

Mr. Davenport calls for an authentic clarification of values and policy rather than an extreme makeover.

“Otherwise, why bother to become merely a pale version of liberalism simply to broaden your appeal and win?” he asks, noting that questions about family values, the role of government, immigration and national defense all deserve thoughtful answers, not just catchy soundbites.

“How does America lead in a dangerous world? That is a question about which conservatives frankly have more answers than liberals,” Mr. Davenport says.

“Conservatives will make a big mistake if they think only of going wide and shallow, seeking more votes at the topsoil level of politics. First they need to go deeper, and sharpen the core values and principles which many Americans do share, and if sacrificed on the altar of politics leaves conservatism as one more loud voice merely seeking votes,” he concludes.