The term used in the military is “after-action report.” Such a report is designed to focus on strengths and weaknesses in the previous battle in order to move forward successfully in the future. There has been no serious “after-action” debate to assess why voters rejected conservative candidates in 2006 and 2008.
First, we conservatives must redefine our foreign policy in accordance with the prudence and caution of our Founding Fathers. As John Adams said, “We do not go abroad in search for monsters to destroy.” We should reread the history of empires that lost blood and treasure in foreign wars. The U.S. military and homeland security budgets consume resources that America can no longer afford to expend on arguably imprudent and utopian missions to remake other governments and cultures. Most Americans do not wish to be seen by the world as empire builders.
We also are deeply in debt. Should we not reassess the manpower and revenues devoted to maintaining a worldwide military presence and conduct a thorough reappraisal of what is and is not absolutely required to protect vital American interests? A serious debate on these subjects is not defeatist; it is long overdue. In my view, no resurgence of conservative leadership can occur without it.
Some pundits attribute our losses to poor technology and weak organization - points not to be discounted. The Republican Party, conservatives’ only conduit, is a truly volunteer organization. Our get-out-the-vote workers are not the NEA, AFL-CIO or SEIU, and they were demoralized.
For example, the pro-life and pro-traditional-family advocates who had manned polls in the past were distressed as they saw their issues downplayed. This was all the more puzzling because pro-lifers, to their great credit, have accomplished an amazing feat in the past few years. According to the Gallup poll, the United States is now 51 percent pro-life, despite massive pro-choice propaganda coming from Hollywood and the mainstream media.
We should honor the amazing people who changed the heart of America on this fundamental issue and reconnect them to the conservative cause. Hispanic and black voters will surely respond. Minority voters predominantly see children as a blessing, not an environmental blight.
Democrats blather on about children - but their pro-abortion votes completely contradict their supposed concern for the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Conservatives must expose this contradiction and affirm our belief in the preciousness of life - the youngest in the womb and the oldest needing dignity and respect near the end of their days.
We must also stress that civic virtue and free markets must go hand-in-hand. Unbridled capitalism has led, sadly, not only to Wall Street excesses, but also to other damaging social conditions, such as the proliferation of hard- and soft-core pornography. Should we not assert that ours is the party that believes in right and wrong? Yes, we are all sinners; we need to uphold the standards of a morally ordered world. If our public officials stumble, we do not remain silent as the left mocks the standard, but hold it aloft, knowing full well that as human beings we struggle every day to live by time-tested rules.
In the relentless attacks on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Nevada Sen. John Ensign, did we ever hear a Republican politician point out our fundamental differences with the current leadership of the Democratic Party on principle in this area? Shouldn’t we as conservatives also commend the actions of local officials such Polk County, Fla., Sheriff Grady Judd for his efforts to combat the explosion of Internet child pornography?
President Obama seems to have had a faulty “after-action report” that misread election results not as a firm rebuke to conservative politicians who went off the rails, but as a go-ahead for liberal social and economic policies. For conservatives to win in 2010 and 2012, we need a truly honest “after-action report,” posthaste.
Ambassador Faith Whittlesey was director of the Office of Public Liaison in the Reagan White House from 1983 to 1985 and served as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland twice, from 1981 to 1983 and from 1985 to 1988.