- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Republicans are poised this week to hold leadership elections. The conservatives among them and the Democratic Party would be wise to consider insightful observations made yesterday and today.

“Where we have really fallen down is, we have lacked the ability to be relevant to people’s lives. Let’s set aside the last eight years, and our falling down in living up to expectations of what we said we were going to do,” Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia told The Washington Times yesterday in an exclusive interview. “It’s the relevancy question.”

Republican Leadership Council Co-chair Christie Todd Whitman, who four years ago said the Republican Party had become hostage to “social fundamentalists,” plaintively wrote yesterday in The Washington Post that the Republican Party “will spend a long time in the political wilderness” if it does not “win back the middle.” By “the middle” she and co-writer Robert M. Bostock meant moderates.

What are the facts to back up their assertion? Consider two: John Kerry held a nine-point margin among moderates over President Bush in 2004; this year, Barack Obama had a 21-point spread over John McCain. Republicans painted him into a corner that left little room for conservative Democrats, fiscal conservatives and Libertarians.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin played a substantial role in drawing a breadth of conservatives to the ticket because her social views are aligned with the social-conservative wing of the Republican Party. Same-sex marriage, abortion, stem-cell research and other pro-life issues, personal responsibility, teen abstinence, Judeo-Christian and traditional-family values are among the top social issues that generally set Republicans apart from Democrats. But what of the conservative base, which arguably is dominated by white evangelicals?

White evangelicals solidly backed McCain-Palin, but even in traditional red states like Florida, North Carolina and Virginia the ticket fell short because, as Mrs. Whitman and Mr. Bostock pointed out, the Democrats broadened their base. Conservatives should follow suit.

The conservative movement didn’t die on Election Day, but they did get an alarming call.

Pro-lifers can share the base with supporters of adult stem-cell research. Conservatives cannot claim sole ownership of the personal-responsibility mantle. Black evangelicals have stood arm-in-arm with their white counterparts during the culture war and should always be seated at the table of conservatives - and not only when the topic is same-sex marriage. “Black civil and religious leaders - rightfully - have expressed outrage at the gay community’s co-opting ‘civil rights’ to include gay sex. Blacks were stoned, hung and dragged for their constitutional right to ‘sit at the table,’ ” as Deputy Editorial Page Editor Tara Wall writes today in her column. “In order to grasp the ‘message’ black voters sent, it must be understood that while black Americans do traditionally and overwhelmingly vote Democratic, they are also more socially conservative than given credit for. And blacks will vote, based on that conviction.”

With all eyes on the economy, and as conservatives evaluate their short-and long-term missions, this is the perfect opportunity to reclaim the one mantle that conservatives always claimed - fiscal conservatism. Indeed. It is time for conservatives to begin answering the penultimate question: Where to now?

The Conservative Manifesto is a Great Depression-era document. It is a road map that is as applicable today as it was when drafted in 1937:

1. Immediate revision of taxes on capital gains and undistributed profits in order to free investment funds.

2. Reduced expenditures to achieve a balanced budget, and thus, to still fears deterring business expansion.

3. An end to coercion and violence in relations between capital and labor.

4. Opposition to “unnecessary” government competition with private enterprise.

5. Recognition that private investment and enterprise require a reasonable profit.

6. Safeguarding the collateral upon which credit rests.

7. Reduction of taxes, or if this proved impossible at the moment, firm assurance of no further increases.

8. Maintenance of state rights, home rule, and local self-government, except where proved definitely inadequate.

9. Economical and non-political relief to unemployed with maximum local responsibility.

10. Reliance upon the American form of government and the American system of enterprise.

That manifesto of the Conservative Coalition, a bipartisan group, prevailed for nearly three decades - until it was upended by LBJ and the Great Society. America cannot afford three decades of another Great Society.

So, where to now, conservatives? Back to the future or off to the wilderness? That question must be answered before the ultimate question is asked: How do we get there?

Conservatives should return to their principles and swing wide the doors to broaden the “base.” The bipartisan issue is obvious. As Americans have said all year long: The economy is Job #1.

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