- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2009


It may seem hard to believe, but the conservative hour in America has once again arrived. Just 10 months after Republicans lost their second straight election and seven months after Barack Obama was inaugurated, the left has so mismanaged its opportunity that its hour is over.

The White House still believes it can talk its way out of the current mess. Even though after a two-week blitz, the president’s approval dropped disastrously. It has concluded that more talk will work and a joint session of Congress will impress the American people.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and her team believe they can bully the House into one more great victory for the left - this one on creating a government-run health care system.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada believes he can get his 59 members into a room and talk them into forgetting the public outcry of August and force America to the left despite the outcry of their constituents.

Indeed, in Mr. Reid’s case, the desperation of the left has led it to suggest passing a radical change for 17 percent of the economy through the reconciliation process, even though that would destroy the Senate as a deliberative body, embitter the Republicans and set the stage for a conservative repeal of the liberal plan under the same procedure the first time Republicans get a simple majority in the Senate.

This refusal to listen to the American people and modify left-wing radicalism to fit the concerns of Americans is beginning to have a devastating impact.

Gallup reports that from January to August, the Democrats’ lead in party identification over Republicans dropped from 17 percent to 5 percent. This may be the sharpest decline in party advantage in modern times, and it happened in seven months. In the last six weeks President Obama’s approval among independents has dropped faster than at any time since President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974.

Gallup just reported that 60 percent of Americans now see labor unions as destructive - higher than at any time in the history of the Gallup Poll. Gallup also reports that by 45 percent to 24 percent Americans want fewer rather than more regulations.

Three things have come together to create this conservative hour of opportunity:

1) The economy is so bad that people want straight talk about creating jobs. Since the American people believe, by 59 percent to 21 percent, that business tax cuts will create jobs better than government spending, this concern about jobs is becoming an increasingly anti-left phenomenon (the opposite of what the left expected).

2) The world remains dangerous and the Obama administration’s confusion on fighting in Afghanistan, releasing terrorists and trying to punish those who have been defending America is beginning to arouse great anger among the national security wing of American life.

3) The radicalism of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi team has aroused a level of suspicion unseen in the last 40 years. The intense reaction to the president’s plan to talk with students (something both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush also did) is a reflection of the intense hostility to radicalism which is building in the American people.

We have seen the swing from liberalism to conservatism before. In my lifetime, there have been three decisive shifts to the right.

After President Lyndon Johnson exploited a temporary victory in 1964 to push through a liberal program, the Republicans rebounded dramatically in 1966; and then in 1968, Richard Nixon won the first of 10 elections in which being defined as a liberal (George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry) was a guarantee of defeat.

After Jimmy Carter won on a nonideological reform candidacy and while he failed to solve the nation’s problems (leading to a malaise speech and a repudiated presidency), Ronald Reagan spent the Carter years explaining the failures of liberalism generally and Mr. Carter specifically and setting the stage for a decisive change in American domestic and foreign policy.

In 1993-94, we watched the left throw away a great opportunity. By offering a clear positive alternative in the Contract with America, we were able to win an astounding victory at every level from state legislature to governor and Congress. President Clinton only survived by tacking to the right, signing welfare reform and agreeing to a balanced budget, with the first tax cut in 16 years.

Mr. Reagan described this process by saying, “I kept saying the same things, and after a while the country came around.”

The conservative hour has to begin well before an election. It takes time for the arguments to be clarified, the facts to be checked and the failures of the left to be highlighted. Once people start paying attention they talk with each other.

The process is vivid proof of Abraham Lincoln’s assertion: “you can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

The national conversation since February has been increasingly intense and increasingly negative toward the left. Three-and-a-half more years of this conversation and we may set America back on a principled conservative path as decisively as Franklin Delano Roosevelt 77 years ago set America on a path toward big government.

The conservative hour has truly come once again.

Newt Gingrich, first elected to the U.S. House from Georgia in 1978, was widely considered the foremost strategist behind the Republicans’ historic victory in 1994, winning majorities in the House and the Senate and becoming the first Republican House speaker in 40 years.

This column was first published Tuesday at TheConservatives.com, a joint venture of The Washington Times and the Heritage Foundation.

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