Over the fifth annual Western Conservative Summit back in July, strangely, a surprising number of the keynote speakers quoted Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman who visited America in the 1830’s and who wrote for a vast European audience, eager to know what life was like in the new Republic. Michele Bachmann reminded us that the widely-read philosopher and pundit wrote that Americans banded together in various free associations to help one another, and that this strange new country was on the cusp of greatness because it was “good.” But it occurred to me that he also so presciently coined the phrase, the tyranny of the majority. He theorized, albeit in very flowery nineteenth-century prose, that if the Americans could, in essence, find a way to vote themselves a paycheck, the Republic was doomed.
I came to the conference in Denver (which featured a who’s who of conservative opinion shapers), wondering, perhaps worrying, that America might have reached a de Tocqueville tipping point, that the America Left had already reached its long-sought goal of making over fifty percent of the voting public either dependent on the transfer of wealth or the administrators of it, that we’ve reached the point of no return where the Left has gained its long-sought goal of one-party rule, which I call the Permanent Marxist Majority. I came looking for clues as to what could become the game changers, the reverse agents, in the coming elections of 2014 and ’16.
Prior to the opening of the conference, I sat down with Jim DeMint, former Senator from South Carolina and current President of the Heritage Foundation. It is important to note that Heritage is the country’s preeminent think-tank for conservative thought and is recognized as having informed President Reagan‘s primary policy initiatives, which won the cold war and ignited the rebirth of American economic prosperity.
I began by saying, “We have a divided GOP, with the establishment on one side and the conservatives on the other. How can we, the conservatives, expect to become the ruling majority when faced with a unified political Left and when over half the country is a net beneficiary of the transfer of wealth?”
“We have to understand that the Left is very skilled at removing the stigma of dependency and in expanding dependency because of the power that comes from it,” he said.
The senator explained that Heritage has done extensive research and polling which show that the majority of Americans still value self-reliance and want to pay their own way. But in response, the Left counters by saying (and this is an Obama mantra), under the governance of the Right, you’re on your own. There’s no safety net, no protection from the rich guys who are going to take advantage of you.
“But here’s why I’m optimistic,” he added, “It’s become so apparent that the progressive ideas are failing all around us. More than ever before, we’ve got good comparisons at the state level where our ideas are working and theirs are not,”
Mr. DeMint then touched upon one of the key issues that I believe has the potential to be one of the game changers which can potentially move some dependent voters into the self-reliant column—school vouchers. “The Left has been telling us for years that school choice will hurt the poor and minorities. But now, after ten years (of growth in school choice and charter schools) those who have been helped the most are the poor kids and minorities. Even in DC (the belly of the liberal beast) most African Americans are behind school choice.”
Next Mr. DeMint alluded to what I propose can be a second game changer—the complete elimination of Obamacare. ‘The other thing we’re seeing in our research is that this free healthcare thing is not working out. More and more poor and minorities, who are being pushed into Medicaid, are finding out that they can’t get a doctor because doctors are not going to keep taking Medicaid patients who don’t even cover their costs. And this is already happening in rural areas.”
The Heritage president finished by initiating a theme echoed by many of the Summit speakers, that being that we conservatives need to be better able to tell our story. “We’ve even found in Wisconsin and Michigan (heavily unionized states) we can win the right to work debate with union workers but you have to talk to them about freedom in the workplace and paycheck protection.”
I agree with Mr. DeMint. We need to be better able to tell our story. But with my fear that America may have already reached the tipping point, I attended the summit, and listened to the speakers which began with Bobby Jindal on Friday night and ended with Allen West on Sunday afternoon. I wanted to see if they would champion my game changers and possibly add some new ones into their remarks. It seemed to me that, only if all or at least most of the conservative opinion makers embraced my game changers, would we ever to win national elections again. Forgive me for not being totally optimistic. It’s now simply too easy for the Left to bribe its voters with other peoples’ money.
Secondly, I went through the weekend operating from an admittedly cynical point of view. I held that conservatism can only win the votes of Democrat dependents by proving to them that voting Democrat will make them poorer while our ideas will make them less poor. For example, school choice; if your kids are too poorly educated to find jobs and have to live at home, possibly resorting to a life of crime, your family is poorer. If your doctor won’t treat your ailing grandmother, you’re poorer.
Cynical as it might sound, my filter for observing the summit was formed by the belief that no American leftist changes his party affiliation for anything other than self-interest. Therefore, game changers can only be monetary. The good of the country be damned. The ministers of the transfer of wealth, from Lois Lerner to the government’s janitors at the SEIU are irredeemable. So the game changers can only be aimed at the Democrat dependent.
Governor Bobby Jindal is a freak of nature. Most Americans have noticed that Obama can only give a gaff-free speech when he is reading from his teleprompter. Jindal enthralled the crowd with comedy, family anecdotes, policy initiatives and examples of his brilliant record as a conservative governor of Louisiana, and did so without ever looking at a single note. His account of Eric Holder’s suit against Louisiana’s voucher program is a huge indictment of the Left because it is a stark reminder that progressives will always stand with the government teachers’ union even if it means throwing students from poor families under the bus. Moreover, Jindal can tell that story with brilliance.
Ralph Reed, President of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, reminded us that with the fiscal operating debt now at $17 trillion and climbing, not only will this president add more to the nation’s debt than all previous presidents combined, but that the next generation will also be forced to pay for an unfunded liability (resulting largely from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, government worker pensions, and now Obamacare) of roughly $70 trillion. He added that it cannot be paid by the next generation of Americans. I would add, nor should it.
Betsy McCaughey, from the Manhattan Institute, was introduced to us as being the only person in the United States who even claims to have read the entire healthcare law. (One we can be sure hasn’t read it all is Obama.) She strode to the microphone carrying a copy of the Obamacare law and slammed it down on the podium. Its 2,500 pages looked to measure two feet tall lying on its side.
The tone she adopted during her address was of someone who is entirely ticked off. As she put it to us, not only is this law so profoundly bad for the country, it probably isn’t even workable. “It even tries to govern private health insurance companies, forcing them to deny healthcare to the elderly! We must elect a president who will repeal it. It’s rotten to the core!” she thundered to rousing applause. Mark another one for the repeal game changer.
Ted Cruz‘s address was the finale on Saturday night. He had arrived in Denver that evening having spent the day on the Texas border. His delivery was distinct from McCaughey’s in that his many applause lines were issued in a quiet, almost prayer-like tone. He notched numerous game changers. He told us that we must abolish the IRS in favor a flat tax and that we must repeal every word of Obamacare and Common Core. My impression of Cruz was that he had the potential to take up the mantle of Reagan; that he may just be a presidential candidate who could unify the country around huge new themes, attract disaffected, self-interested Democrats, invite them to join us in charting a new course. In short, he may be a game changer.Facebook and Twitter, and follow our friends at RepublicanLegion.com.