Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Remain Calm

Lately when I've been listening to conservative talk radio, I've noticed what seems to be a growing sense of panic among many on the right. You hear it on the national shows and it was especially evident on last week's NARN First Team broadcast where caller after caller voiced their despair with the present political circumstances and offered little in the way of hope for the future.

The consensus was that something needs to be done now to avert catastrophe. What was really eye opening was hearing more than a few callers say that it was past the time for mere politics and more drastic action was required. When pressed on what that action should entail, few details were forthcoming, but the frustration nearing desperation in the voice of these callers was clear.

Now it's true that there have always been a very small minority on the right who called for extreme action: stock up on guns & ammo and move to the country, stop paying your taxes, overthrow the government, etc. However, only six weeks in to the glorious Age of Obama, it seems like this radical sentiment is attracting more support.

Even more disturbing is the defeatist attitude and doom and gloom outlook that has griped the psyches of a far broader group of conservatives. There's a sense that each day the country is slinking closer and closer to some sort of government-driven statist society and that each day that passes only makes this decline more and more irreversible.

Allow me to play the starry-eyed optimist for a moment and provide some advice and perspective. If you can step back from the day to day for a moment and expand your timeframe, you might see that things aren't as bad or as hopeless as they may now appear.

First, some advice. As conservatives we like to consider ourselves to be more realistic about the circumstances of the world and more mature in our outlook (funny that liberals think the same about themselves). So let's not act like petulant teenagers and pout because we didn't get our way. We lost a couple of elections. But it's not the end of the world as we know. Don't repeat the hysteria of the left during the Bush years. No one "stole" your country. This is still America. Still the best country in the world and still the last best hope for mankind.

Next, get some perspective. Believe it or not, things have been worse. In 1974, the wake of Watergate and Ford's pardon of Nixon, the Democrats picked up four seats in the Senate (after the special election in New Hampshire) and held a 61-38 advantage. In the House, Democrats picked up 49 seats to give them a commanding 291-144 advantage.

No one wanted to admit they were a Republican in those days. In 1974, Democrats enjoyed a 22 point lead over the GOP in party identification. In 1975, it was a 25 point spread. In 1977, the first year of Jimmy Carter's administration, it increased to 27 points. And yet from the depths of '74 it was only six years (yes, painful long years) to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

A lot can happen in six years. Remember what things were like in 2002? The GOP picked up two Senate seats to gain a 51-49 edge. They won eight more seats in the House to increase their majority. President Bush was enjoying approval ratings of 70%, the party identification gap was the narrowest it had ever been (+3% for the Dems), and people were seriously asking if the Democratic party would splinter into bickering factions in the near future. Yes, while it seems like a world away today, that was only SIX years ago.

So yes, things don't look so rosy at the moment. But it's helpful to remember that this is just the early stages of the Obama administration. There's still plenty of time for more overreach, failure of his policies once enacted, and voter backlash at the ballot box. While there is no guarantee of it, time very well may be on our side.

And don't overreact to Bobby Jindal's less than stellar outing last week. Remember that he's only thirty-seven, a full ten years younger than President Obama. He still has a lot of time to find his footing and comfort on the national stage. No reason to rush him at this point or panic when he missteps. He may be the "next Ronald Reagan" or he may not. But we have some time to find out.

In the meantime, we should try to avoid falling into some of the same pitfalls that have plagued us of late. I was dismayed to learn that Mitt Romney was the 2012 candidate of choice in a straw poll at CPAC. The surest way to extend the Republican wilderness stay would be to nominate Romney in 2012. He is not the voice to lead a reborn and renewed conservative movement and putting him in the driver's seat is just going to lead to more spinning of wheels.

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