For Conservatives, Winning's the Thing

I'll begin by quoting President Obama: "Let me be clear: this is not about me."  If we elected a president who met all of my criteria, he would:

  • oppose abortion on demand without constraint;
  • support a pro-life agenda;
  • support the Defense of Marriage Act;
  • support Don't Ask Don't Tell;
  • repeal ObamaCare;
  • support the Second-Amendment right to bear arms;
  • support a strong national defense;
  • oppose unfettered union activity that is helping to drive up costs and bankrupt this nation;
  • support the right to work in every state;
  • oppose illegal immigration and introduce a plan to curtail it;
  • oppose affirmative action;
  • support initiatives that will make the U.S. energy-independent, including the development of domestic coal, oil, and natural gas;
  • recognize that education falls under the purview of state and local governments;
  • support the protection of human rights both at home and abroad;
  • oppose deficit spending to prop up a failing welfare state; and
  • support principles that helped to make America the most prosperous nation on earth: limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, and individual liberty.
But as I said, this is not about me.  A candidate for the presidency in 2012 who made my entire platform his agenda would probably lose.  For that reason, I have to accept the fact that the U.S. today is not the same country that it was just a few years ago.  For example, today, 51% of Americans pay no federal income tax.  That's up from 19.8% in 1980, 19% in 1990, and 23.1% in 2000.  Since the majority of our fellow citizens contribute absolutely nothing to our national defense, interest payments on the national debt, the Justice Department, or any other department or agency in the federal government, their attitudes toward the role of the federal government in our lives aren't even remotely similar to mine.  Pretending that they are makes no sense.

In the United States, we have created a welfare state of mind.  Patrick Tyrrell at The Heritage Foundation recognized the problem and wrote about it in a piece titled "Dependence on Government at All-Time High."  He said:

  • One in five Americans -- the highest in the nation's history -- relies on the federal government for everything from housing, health care, and food stamps to college tuition and retirement assistance. That's more than 67.3 million Americans who receive subsidies from Washington.
  • Government dependency jumped 8.1 percent in the past year, with the most assistance going toward housing, health and welfare, and retirement.
  • The federal government spent more taxpayer dollars than ever before in 2011 to subsidize Americans. The average individual who relies on Washington could receive benefits valued at $32,748, more than the nation's average disposable personal income ($32,446).
  • At the same time, nearly half of the U.S. population (49.5 percent) does not pay any federal income taxes.
  • In the next 25 years, more than 77 million baby boomers will retire. They will begin collecting checks from Social Security, drawing benefits from Medicare, and relying on Medicaid for long-term care.
  • As of now, 70 percent of the federal government's budget goes to individual assistance programs, up dramatically in just the past few years. However, research shows that private, community, and charitable aid helps individuals rise from their difficulties with better success than federal government handouts. Plus, local and private aid is often more effectively distributed.

As much as I abhor the thought of the U.S. moving in the direction of European-style socialism, I have to confess that we've done exactly that, and pretending that we haven't is silly.  Ignoring reality in this regard can guarantee the re-election of Barack Obama because the majority of people in this country -- enough for him to win the 2012 election -- are takers, not contributors.  Whom do you think they will vote for if the GOP nominates a pure conservative? 

And what about same-sex marriage, an issue that's dear to social conservatives' hearts?  In 1980, no rational person running for president would have considered introducing a plank in his platform supporting same-sex marriage because it would have cost him the election, but things have changed since then.  Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004.  ConnecticutIowaNew HampshireNew York, Vermont, and Washington State have followed suit.  So have Washington, D.C. and Oregon's Coquille and Washington state's Suquamish Indian tribes, and Rhode Island now recognizes same-sex civil unions. 

In 2011, for the first time, polling data showed that the majority of Americans favor same-sex marriages.  The chart below shows Gallup polling data on same-sex marriage between 1996 and 2011:

As you can see, there is an obvious trend in the United States toward legalizing same-sex marriages, and as much as I oppose the idea, I realize that making same-sex marriage an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign can have disastrous consequences.  Moreover, right now New Jersey, Maryland, and California are moving rapidly toward legalizing same sex-marriages, so the trend is likely to accelerate.  That's all the more reason not to make same-sex marriage an issue in the 2012 general election.

If you are a social conservative, you need to support a candidate who can be elected under the conditions prevailing at this moment.  At the national level, that means supporting someone who isn't a pure conservative -- someone whom left-wing politicians and their enablers in the media can't easily brand as an out-of-touch right-winger.  A look at polling data on pro-life vs. pro-choice further illustrates my point.  Below is chart showing Gallup polling data on "Pro-Life" and "Pro-Choice" between 1995 and mid-2011:

Pro-life advocates were winning the battle against pro-choice supporters until 2009.  That coincides with Barack Obama taking office.  Since his election, the tide has swung in his direction.  When Obama became president, pro-life advocates had a 9-point advantage.  Today, they have a 4-point disadvantage.  If Obama is re-elected, the trends could easily take us back to the halcyon days of the Clinton era, when our nation's leader didn't even know what sex is.  With no chance of being re-elected, a second term could easily see our president's doubt about same-sex marriage evolve to the point where it evaporates completely -- that is, of course, if he actually had any doubts to begin with.

If you are a conservative and you want to win this battle, you need to take a long-term view:

  • Step 1 is to nominate a candidate who can win a national election.
  • Step 2 is to make sure that he is elected.
  • Step 3 is to lay out the conservative case convincingly and deliver the conservative message tirelessly from the bully pulpit.

If the GOP nominee doesn't win the 2012 presidential election, you can bet that President Obama will continue to move our nation farther to the left.  That is why winning this election is imperative.

Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia.  His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily.

I'll begin by quoting President Obama: "Let me be clear: this is not about me."  If we elected a president who met all of my criteria, he would:

  • oppose abortion on demand without constraint;
  • support a pro-life agenda;
  • support the Defense of Marriage Act;
  • support Don't Ask Don't Tell;
  • repeal ObamaCare;
  • support the Second-Amendment right to bear arms;
  • support a strong national defense;
  • oppose unfettered union activity that is helping to drive up costs and bankrupt this nation;
  • support the right to work in every state;
  • oppose illegal immigration and introduce a plan to curtail it;
  • oppose affirmative action;
  • support initiatives that will make the U.S. energy-independent, including the development of domestic coal, oil, and natural gas;
  • recognize that education falls under the purview of state and local governments;
  • support the protection of human rights both at home and abroad;
  • oppose deficit spending to prop up a failing welfare state; and
  • support principles that helped to make America the most prosperous nation on earth: limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, and individual liberty.

But as I said, this is not about me.  A candidate for the presidency in 2012 who made my entire platform his agenda would probably lose.  For that reason, I have to accept the fact that the U.S. today is not the same country that it was just a few years ago.  For example, today, 51% of Americans pay no federal income tax.  That's up from 19.8% in 1980, 19% in 1990, and 23.1% in 2000.  Since the majority of our fellow citizens contribute absolutely nothing to our national defense, interest payments on the national debt, the Justice Department, or any other department or agency in the federal government, their attitudes toward the role of the federal government in our lives aren't even remotely similar to mine.  Pretending that they are makes no sense.

In the United States, we have created a welfare state of mind.  Patrick Tyrrell at The Heritage Foundation recognized the problem and wrote about it in a piece titled "Dependence on Government at All-Time High."  He said:

  • One in five Americans -- the highest in the nation's history -- relies on the federal government for everything from housing, health care, and food stamps to college tuition and retirement assistance. That's more than 67.3 million Americans who receive subsidies from Washington.
  • Government dependency jumped 8.1 percent in the past year, with the most assistance going toward housing, health and welfare, and retirement.
  • The federal government spent more taxpayer dollars than ever before in 2011 to subsidize Americans. The average individual who relies on Washington could receive benefits valued at $32,748, more than the nation's average disposable personal income ($32,446).
  • At the same time, nearly half of the U.S. population (49.5 percent) does not pay any federal income taxes.
  • In the next 25 years, more than 77 million baby boomers will retire. They will begin collecting checks from Social Security, drawing benefits from Medicare, and relying on Medicaid for long-term care.
  • As of now, 70 percent of the federal government's budget goes to individual assistance programs, up dramatically in just the past few years. However, research shows that private, community, and charitable aid helps individuals rise from their difficulties with better success than federal government handouts. Plus, local and private aid is often more effectively distributed.

As much as I abhor the thought of the U.S. moving in the direction of European-style socialism, I have to confess that we've done exactly that, and pretending that we haven't is silly.  Ignoring reality in this regard can guarantee the re-election of Barack Obama because the majority of people in this country -- enough for him to win the 2012 election -- are takers, not contributors.  Whom do you think they will vote for if the GOP nominates a pure conservative? 

And what about same-sex marriage, an issue that's dear to social conservatives' hearts?  In 1980, no rational person running for president would have considered introducing a plank in his platform supporting same-sex marriage because it would have cost him the election, but things have changed since then.  Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004.  ConnecticutIowaNew HampshireNew York, Vermont, and Washington State have followed suit.  So have Washington, D.C. and Oregon's Coquille and Washington state's Suquamish Indian tribes, and Rhode Island now recognizes same-sex civil unions. 

In 2011, for the first time, polling data showed that the majority of Americans favor same-sex marriages.  The chart below shows Gallup polling data on same-sex marriage between 1996 and 2011:

As you can see, there is an obvious trend in the United States toward legalizing same-sex marriages, and as much as I oppose the idea, I realize that making same-sex marriage an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign can have disastrous consequences.  Moreover, right now New Jersey, Maryland, and California are moving rapidly toward legalizing same sex-marriages, so the trend is likely to accelerate.  That's all the more reason not to make same-sex marriage an issue in the 2012 general election.

If you are a social conservative, you need to support a candidate who can be elected under the conditions prevailing at this moment.  At the national level, that means supporting someone who isn't a pure conservative -- someone whom left-wing politicians and their enablers in the media can't easily brand as an out-of-touch right-winger.  A look at polling data on pro-life vs. pro-choice further illustrates my point.  Below is chart showing Gallup polling data on "Pro-Life" and "Pro-Choice" between 1995 and mid-2011:

Pro-life advocates were winning the battle against pro-choice supporters until 2009.  That coincides with Barack Obama taking office.  Since his election, the tide has swung in his direction.  When Obama became president, pro-life advocates had a 9-point advantage.  Today, they have a 4-point disadvantage.  If Obama is re-elected, the trends could easily take us back to the halcyon days of the Clinton era, when our nation's leader didn't even know what sex is.  With no chance of being re-elected, a second term could easily see our president's doubt about same-sex marriage evolve to the point where it evaporates completely -- that is, of course, if he actually had any doubts to begin with.

If you are a conservative and you want to win this battle, you need to take a long-term view:

  • Step 1 is to nominate a candidate who can win a national election.
  • Step 2 is to make sure that he is elected.
  • Step 3 is to lay out the conservative case convincingly and deliver the conservative message tirelessly from the bully pulpit.

If the GOP nominee doesn't win the 2012 presidential election, you can bet that President Obama will continue to move our nation farther to the left.  That is why winning this election is imperative.

Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia.  His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily.

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