Conservatives are resistant to change by nature, but we need to remember we've been at our best as reformers.
While I have always worn the label with a degree of pride I have always found the term “conservative” rather unusual for a movement and party like ours. At it’s base, we believe in reforming social services that have been around for 100 years and redefining the tax code, I would hardly call those “conservative” in the purest sense of the word. I also find the term “liberal” rather odd for liberals as they seem intent on preserving decades old institutions that don’t work.
But the terms “liberal” and “conservative” become most fitting after either side looses elections. When liberals lose, they go to work to innovate, rework, and repackage their stale, worn out, disproved policies. When conservatives lose, it seems like we hunker down, Jedidiah Bila submits a typical reaction from some conservatives to suggestions of inclusion of blacks, Hispanics, asians, young people etc.
Every time I suggest better, smarter GOP outreach to young people, Hispanics, African Americans, and women, many in the GOP old guard wave their pointer fingers at me and insist that I am advocating pandering, that I am allying myself with the Left’s divide and conquer tactics.
“Pandering” “racializing” seems to be a fear of the right. This gets mistaken and stroked by the left as “racism”, but it’s actually the opposite in it’s intention. These conservatives want to live in a world described by Martin Luther King Jr. where people are not judged by “the color of their skin” but by “the content of their character.” That’s all fine and dandy and admirable, but we live in a very different world. We live in a world were Democrats have convinced minorities that they will die in the streets without social services, that Republicans want to “return to the policies of Jim Crow” at best (I’m using quotations, because it’s an exact quotation from several prominent Democrats) and more recently in this election, “slavery” at worst. Democrats have convinced young women that being pro-life is equivalent to wanting to probe them and be the most invasive of their privacy imaginable. They have convinced Latinos that we want nothing to do with them.
It’s not the message that has to change — freedom, liberty, the Constitution — all of it is essential to what America is about. But how we present that message and who we present that message to has to change. It’s going to require a lot of hard work with perhaps very little initial pay off, but it is absolutely essential to our survival as a movement. The Democrats accuse us of stroking the fears of old, white males, but it’s not that we’re intentionally stroking them, it’s who the main demographic of our party is because the Democrats have sliced and diced every other group into reliable voting blocs for them. The presentation needs to tailor to these groups without changing the message. And the presentation needs to be determined by talking to these groups, finding out what they believe, what their hopes, aspirations, and dreams are. That’s what America is about, the idea that you can come from nothing and succeed. No other nation on earth offers anyone that opportunity the way America does, even with Obama as president. When you sell a product, it doesn’t change, but you change the way you sell it depending on who you’re talking to and what you have found out about them. That’s the way we’ve got to approach this.
We’re conservatives, by instinct, we want to protect what we know to be true, what we know works, and what we know will make America and it’s people successful. This is an incredibly positive trait, but what we can’t do is double down on political tactics that haven’t worked. We’ve got to develop something new, we’ve got to find new conservatives, and we’ve got to build a coalition that can win elections and save America.