- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2009


The election of Barack Obama opens the door to the implementation of a new-left program, which I have called the “new socialism.”

Grounded in fear after the Sept. 11 attacks and Wall Street panic and fueled by a great anger and frustration with the Bush administration, a long-sought program of the political left is under way.

The political rules that have developed over years - seniority, campaign-finance restrictions and pork-barrel politics in both parties - may make it difficult, if not impossible, to arrest this leftist program.

The nation’s only hope rests in the conservative movement, which must provide the intellectual underpinnings for new and different directions for America.

The challenge we face is that the conservative movement does not speak only with many voices, but with contradictory voices. The shrill conflict in the conservative movement comes at a time when the American people are tired of conflict.

During the eight years of the Bush administration, the liberals attacked relentlessly. The Bush response was often cloaked in swagger and hubris. Left-leaning journalists have heaped scorn, contempt and anger on George W. Bush, who became a stand-in for conservatives.

The task now is not just to explain better, but also to convince people that the individual still has value and that the state should not control all the options a citizen has in his daily life.

Is the conservative movement capable today of providing that direction? It is not. There are too many groups with too many disparate messages.

What are these groups, and what are they saying?

First, many Catholics and Protestant evangelicals are in politics to further the pro-life cause. Other values come up, but political support almost always boils down to the abortion issue. Mere allies to the pro-life movement are no longer tolerated.

A second group is the fiscal conservatives, who believe in smaller government and lower taxes. Yet we live today in a society trained to think that government spending costs nothing. Failure to spend and expand government programs is seen as stingy, cold or insensitive. The more people depend on government programs, the more they have a vested interest in the taxpayers money.

Americans in business at one time were reliable members of the conservative movement.

After all, they operated in a free society that rewarded risk and creative wealth. No longer. Today the business community often seeks heavy public spending and higher taxes. The taxpayer finances contracts, jobs and pork-barrel spending. Some business people are not at home with evangelicals, and some dislike fiscal conservatives.

The neoconservatives who emerged during the Bush administration believe in vigorous projection of American power in our foreign policy. Like Woodrow Wilson, their belief is that only the spread of democracy will provide for American national security.

This runs headlong into the anti-colonial movement seen in international relations after World War II.

The Ron Paul movement is another group that influences political conventions and gets media attention. While the movement’s supporters believe in individual liberty, they are deeply suspicious of anyone in the “establishment.”

Mr. Paul’s anti-Iraq stance repels national-security conservatives.

There’s nothing wrong with all this different thinking. But the splintering of the conservative movement cannot provide a political program to confront the political left in America today. The conservative movement must settle on a common theme that offers the hope of attracting a majority of Americans. This theme is the economic liberty that applies to every citizen and every human being. A persons wealth is identical to a persons liberty.

We must educate and empower citizens to make their own money and to surrender as little as possible to a government that extracts that wealth.

Other lines of conservative thought should be free to develop, but they must be subordinated to the main theme of domestic liberty and limited government.

Whatever political action is necessary must be done to achieve this unity of message and program.

Until we get down to one message to which all Americans can be drawn, we cannot grow back to a majority.

A change away from the Obama approach will come. The Obama program does not enhance or enable freedom. We have seen a bailout program that beggars imagination. Already billions in taxpayer money are being lost because of the acquisition of bad mortgages and financing bankrupt companies.

The current U.S. budget is $3.6 trillion, and $1.8 trillion of that is debt.

The inevitable result will be higher inflation that is cruel to the elderly and to those of modest means. Another result will be higher taxes, which removes the free capacity of families to decide their own lives. The assertion that someone else will pay for this debt is a lie.

Mr. Obama wants to move to national health care. If the state controls your health, it controls your life. If government is paying the bill for your medical care, it has a right through regulation to tell you how to live.

Next is the government action to stop global warming under threat of an apocalypse. “Cap-and-trade” laws will expropriate to the government the right to license virtually all economic activity. If the government controls peoples ability to make money, then it controls their liberty.

The only hope for the United States is the conservative movement. Now is the time when conservatives must subordinate their different goals in favor of a unified economic message. If we do, we will allow an American majority to come back to us.

This is our historic moment, and our historic opportunity.

• James S. Gilmore III was governor of Virginia, chairman of the Republican National Committee and chairman of the congressional panel on responding to terrorism incidents involving weapons of mass destruction.

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