The conservative movement these days is perhaps in the best health of my adult life. It is dynamic, it is vigorous, it is on the move, literally, and growing into the most powerful American political force of this young century.
If you listen to the left and to the mainstream media, though, they will tell you it’s not true. Back in May, for example, CNN ran a story with this headline: “GOP problem: ‘Their voters are white, aging and dying off.’”
We all know dead people don’t vote unless they’re Democrats, still living young people don’t vote Republican, either, and neither does anybody who isn’t white, so the GOP has a problem, so the story line went. Not only that, the article reported, but births of nonwhites have overtaken births of whites.
The message was straightforward: Don’t sweat it liberals, simple demographics favor us. We shall outlive the conservatives and outpopulate the white people.
Ah, liberals. To let them tell it, they are always on the verge of taking over the universe. In 2008, Barack Obama’s election was said to usher in an era of infinite hope and change – we got the change, all right, but not the change we hoped for – and before that the teeming young baby boomers of the 1960s were going to fundamentally transform society (without the inconvenience of changing any basic institutions, mind you, as the social critic Michael Harrington once said).
Now it’s true, being conservative has not recently been considered cool, and, after some heady days during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the movement had fallen on hard times by 2006.
Perhaps the roughest patch of all was the presidency of George W. Bush, who spent tax dollars like a drunken Democrat on steroids. Or something like that. He spent it on the rich and special interests, too. According to Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University, Mr. Bush added thousands of new federal subsidy programs during his administration, doling out hundreds of billions of dollars a year to various special interests, including but not limited to state governments, crony capitalists, nonprofit groups, and political supporters.
It’s not all Mr. Bush’s fault, of course. The mainstream media has been a large part of the problem. For decades the MSM has painted conservatives as, at best, a bunch of whacked out religious dogmatists and, at worst, hillbillies in the backwoods missing teeth and about 12 years of education – you know, the kind of people Mr. Obama said were clinging to religion and guns.
On the one hand, conservatives were seen as evil white rich people padding the pockets of their special-interest friends, while on the other hand they were portrayed as ignorant people living in the hinterlands circa 1950. Choose your poison.
So, if you were a serious young person studying the constitution, it would be easy to be repulsed by the GOP’s big-government ways. If you were a middle-class professional in the suburbs, or a mom and dad working hard out in America’s small towns, and you considered yourself conservative, you had to feel despair and loneliness, for, according to the media, there was no one else like you in the world.
In this situation, you would not want to publicly claim or be associated with your political kin. And so the conservative movement staggered and swayed and nearly fell apart altogether in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
But then a powerful intersection of events began to change history, or at least the directional flow of American politics and the history that ultimately springs from it: The appearance and fast growth of social media – and, in particular, the so-called new media – and, in 2008, the election of Barack Obama himself.
We all know the history of the rebellion that has mobilized against the president. Mr. Obama’s pursuit of a rigid and leftist ideological agenda, and its obese manifestation in ObamaCare, ignited the Tea Party and set off a titanic grassroots movement against government spending and big government in general.
After his “shellacking” in the 2010 midterm elections, Mr. Obama only intensified the energy of that movement. Rather than pulling a Bill Clinton and moving to the center, Mr. Obama tacked even more to the left, piling on executive order after executive order, tax-increase proposal after tax-increase proposal, regulation after regulation.
The president even sought to regulate dust on farms. Yes, it got that bad.
That his policies have not worked have put millions of Americans in dire economic straits, and that has, as it ought to, brought a forceful political opposition. Beyond economics, though, there is another factor involved, and that is the fear factor,
Americans today look at a president who not only refuses to acknowledge his failures but insists on pursuing them ever more intensely. To grow government until it regulates and controls every aspect of life – a collective fascism – is simply in the fabric of the man. He cannot give a single speech without laying bare this truth in some ugly, notorious way (“you didn’t build that” business), and it has scared the hell out of most Americans.
A Gallup poll released last December puts this in sharp perspective. In that survey, concerns about the threat of big government “dwarfed” those about big business and big labor, to use Gallup’s language. An astonishing 64 percent of Americans said big government was the biggest threat to the country, while only 26 percent tagged big business as the biggest menace.
In previous times, the mainstream media could keep all this under control. The liberal press literally commanded and monopolized the nation’s political narrative. Manipulated headlines and manipulated stories all served to tell us that hope and change were on the way, that only a handful of conservatives existed – half of them robber barons in executive suites, the other half hicks in the backwoods – and everything would be OK so long as we went out and voted Democratic, or, at the very least, establishment Republican.
And then along came the social media. Along came Andrew Breitbart. Along came Facebook and Twitter and other networking sites, and suddenly the game changed. Especially on Twitter, people were not only posting pictures of their nieces and nephews and notes about their hobbies but broadcasting their political views, not to mention breaking news.
With 750 million unique visits for Facebook each month, and 250 million unique visits to Twitter each month, an alternative new media was born, and it has become a powerful tool. News can be verified and reported often before it hits the mainstream media, and, even more important, the bias of the mainstream media can be called out.
And that has enabled the disparate forces of the right, who had been so long defamed and shouted down by the leftist media, to connect. That has allowed them to let loose their own expressions and talents and feelings, their own commentary. The moms and dads in the small towns, the professionals in the suburbs, the young principled constitutionalist students – all now realized they weren’t alone in the wilderness, after all. They could talk to each other and mobilize. And talk to each and mobilize they have.
The result is a vigorous, youthful and dynamic conservative movement, and its trajectory is straight upward. I witness this every day in my work. I see it in the words of young people and Christian moms and truck drivers, in the thoughts of a growing number of blacks and Latinos – all spreading the message in their tweets. I saw it in the enthusiastic and youthful crowd cheering on Gov. Scott Walker at his election night victory party in Wisconsin.
That is anecdotal evidence, of course, but more tangible evidence confirms it. Look at the 2010 elections and you can’t doubt it. The GOP recaptured the U.S. House of Representatives. The conservative resurgence was even more striking on the state level, where Republicans picked up six governorships to swell their number to 29.
And these successes were driven by the small-government and libertarian grassroots, not by GOP big-government types, electing such conservatives as Scott Walker and Nikki Haley in South Carolina. That conservative strength has continued in this election cycle, too. Ask now deposed Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana if you don’t believe it.
And the American right is growing. In that December Gallup survey, those who identified themselves as conservative doubled those who identified themselves as liberal. What’s more, conservatives outnumbered moderates for the third year in a row, after moderates had outnumbered conservatives for a decade.
The prospects are bright for continued headway. Young people, for example, remain more devoted to the president and to the Democratic Party, but, amid their own economic insecurities and the president’s breach of faith on civil liberties, their energy is low, their allegiance faltering. If the right continues to expose Obamaism for what it is, not a redistribution of wealth for social justice but for government control, that population group will bolt as well.
To be sure, Mr. Obama may yet survive. His army of special-interest unions, entitled voters and the dead, propped up by the massive infrastructure of a still potent mainstream media, may yet carry him to victory. The big-government Republican Party is still kicking, too. The war for liberty and to rescue the constitution is a long way from over.
But I, for one, am optimistic. At long last the American left has been exposed for what it truly is, and people are responding. The ranks are swelling by the day; the tools to organize and spread the message are in our hands.
The future is ours. The wave of the future is the conservative wave.