ShareThis Page
News Columnists

The fight for the right

| Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:

Bring me my Arrows of desire:

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire.

I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand

Till we have built Jerusalem

In England's green & pleasant Land.

In regard to attitude, America's conservatives could do worse than to be moved by those lines of William Blake from another place and another time on behalf of a similar sacred cause then not yet realized.

Conservatism always has been and always will be a force to reckon with because it most closely approximates the reality of the human condition, based, as it is, on the cumulative judgment and experience of a people.

As a force in electoral politics in any given season, conservatism, like all ideas and causes, is hostage to the effectiveness of the party that carries its banner, the candidates and leaders who articulate its principles and programs, and the engagement and spirit of the people who are its natural adherents.

A dispassionate critique of the performance of each of those elements would have to conclude that the core of the conservative people -- our natural adherents -- were inflamed with both passion and knowledge of conservative principles. It was the party and the candidates, leaders and conspicuous advocates (with some honorable exceptions) who failed both in their visions and their performances a cause that yearned to be well-led.

But fate also has played its part this season. Only once since FDR-Truman has the American electorate elected the same party to the White House three times in a row (Reagan, Reagan, Bush -- 1980-1992).

Moreover, the Republican Party, our reluctant champion, naturally (if, in a few instances, unfairly) was held to account for two unpopular wars, managerial incompetence, a collapsed housing market that resulted in a 20 percent to 50 percent crash in the home values for most Americans, and a financial crisis that threatens world prosperity and has reduced the value of the average American's stock portfolio by about 40 percent.

But as someone who has been banging around American politics since the Goldwater glory and defeat of 1964, I need to observe that the first explanation of losing causes and losing parties (liberals and conservatives) almost invariably is to blame incompetent candidates, ineffective messages and overwhelming events.

At a technical level, that is often true. But at a deeper, historical level, the failure was that the cause was not yet ready to lead. We conservatives were not ready to lead in 1964. By 1980 and 1994, under Reagan and Gingrich, we had figured out how to talk to a majority of the country with both principles and programs that gained a majority endorsement.

Today there are certain profound values -- free markets and respect for life -- that are renounced at the price of our soul. Free markets, particularly, are under the immediate, explicit assault of the next government.

But as a national cause championed by a national party, a conservative agenda must learn to speak persuasively to a near majority of Hispanic-Americans or we will be merely a debating society. When Texas joins states such as Colorado, New Mexico (and even North Carolina, Virginia, Arizona and Florida), where Hispanic votes are necessary for victory, there is no possibility of national governance without finding that voice.

Our challenge is not to retreat to the comfort of self-congratulatory exile but to sweat and bleed -- and be victorious -- in the arena of public opinion.

Tony Blankley is executive vice president of Edelman public relations in Washington.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me