The Right Opinion

How Conservatives Can Defeat Liberalism

By Linda Chavez · Nov. 16, 2012

Two weeks after the election, conservatives are still asking why Mitt Romney lost. That, however, is the wrong first question argues Charles R. Kesler in his new book “I am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism.” We cannot fully understand Romney's defeat, implies Kelser, until we first understand why conservatives have lost the majority of policy battles over the past 100 years. Despite having won their share of Presidential elections, conservatives have not slowed the advance of the welfare state.

Political pundits have blamed Romney's defeat on everything from Hurricane Sandy to inept get-out-the vote efforts, but the problem goes deeper. If conservatives are to get back on track, says Kesler, they must look to first principles, to the political philosophy, often invisible, that ultimately drives public policy. Kesler who is the editor of the influential Claremont Review of Books, shows how Woodrow Wilson and the early twentieth century Progressives silently overturned the principles of the American Founding. Kesler then traces out the liberal policies that logically, even inevitably, followed and are a major part of the contemporary liberal agenda.

The Founders believed that man's nature had two parts and that a just government accords with both: that part of man's nature he shares with all men (his natural rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) and that part that is uniquely and unequally his (talents, brains, motivation and so on). It follows that just government should be limited to preserving a man's natural rights while leaving him alone to do with his unique abilities as he sees fit.

The Progressives, on the other hand, had a very different political philosophy. They thought man, by nature, was an empty vessel and that it was society, not nature, that made the man. Accordingly, society was responsible for providing mans' needs, and if some men were needy it must be because society was not doing its job. In the Progressive view, justice required that everyone had not equal opportunity but equal outcomes.

At root, then, what separates liberals from conservatives is their respective understanding of justice: The battle is between social justice and what might be called American political justice. Liberals defend their policy preferences by asserting their understanding of justice. Conservatives, on the other hand, do not respond with their own understanding of justice, thereby leaving liberals to define what, at the end of the day, is the most important determinant of policy.

Obamacare is a good example of the trap conservatives fall into as a result. According to liberals, justice demands that everyone have the same level of health care. Unfortunately, conservatives have responded not by arguing that Obamacare is unjust but that it is too expensive. But this argument is weak because it implies that if Obamacare cost less then it would be OK. In other words, by not refuting liberals on the grounds of justice, conservatives concede the premise of liberal policies.

It is true that conservatives also argue that Obamacare is unconstitutional. But on this argument conservatives are hung by their own jurisprudence, which denies that the Constitution has anything to do with justice.

Conservatives ought to aim not at costs but at the injustice of Obamacare, focusing attention on the freedoms it threatens: freedom of association, contract, free speech, religious liberties and even life. We don't yet know the full implications of Obamacare, but even before its tyrannical policy implications flower, the threats to freedom are clearly visible.

Focusing on justice, also directs attention where it belongs, to the majority, the 85-90 percent who have excellent healthcare. Then the question becomes, “Is it just to deprive the vast majority of freedom for sake of the minority?”

This need not mean the minority should be ignored. But it does mean that in assisting the disadvantaged, we must distinguish, in the spirit of the Founders, between those who lack health care through no fault of their own and those who make bad choices, a distinction that can only occur at the local level.

Kesler's book shows conservatives that they must meet liberals on the grounds of justice. That means returning to the political philosophy of the Founding. It won't undo the outcome of this election but it might put conservatives on track to win in the future.

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9 Comments

Orf in Pennsylvania said:

Linda, you and Kesler miss the major problems why conservatives are losing the battle. They do not understand how to fight the enemy because they are not clear about who is the enemy. Many ideas have been promoted to explain why Romney lost the election. But little has been done to point to some action to correct the problem.

To be brief, the two major factors against Republicans ever winning another election are the propaganda news media and the left-wing educational establishment that turns out brain-washed young people and contributes left-wing journalists taught by lefty profs.

The first problem can be dealt with by attacking the propaganda media by petitioning the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). The FCC can retract the licenses of those who fail to provide unbiased news, cover up information people should know, and repeat the patent lies of those in power.

The second problem can be dealt with by laws prohibiting political discrimination in the hiring practices at colleges and universities. Ninety percent of university professors are left-wing. Unless a student is well grounded in American history and the Constitution before he enters college, he is likely to become left-wing without knowing it. Only a third or less of people ever learn how to think for themselves. The rest believe what they hear most often.

If conservative politicians and others deal with these problems, there is a chance that some day a reversal may occur before Western civilization completely collapses.

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

It al comes down to basic values. Hard work, taking responsibility for the choices you make, taking care of your own, helping those who are in need when you can(not parasites on the dole), understanding the Decleration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 10:50 AM

Mark of CA in Fullerton replied:

You are correct so far as "our side" goes. Liberal Prog Communists have a different view, "We will FORCE you to 'our side'." They cannot have the outcomes they desire without forcing us into slavery to their ideology because they do not use their resources toward their ends, they use our resources.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 5:58 AM

Tapdaddy in Indiana said:

"In the Progressive view, justice required that everyone had not equal opportunity but equal outcomes." Regardless of the amount of effort applied, or lack there-of. And it is the, Lack There-of part that annoys me. I think that I have a Christian responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves but I owe no-one anything who will not try to help him or her-self.

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 1:34 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

According to Rush Limbaugh, the pilgrims tried a form of Socialism at Plymouth Rock Mass, during the second year in America. It did not work---the slackers mooched off of the hard-working pilgrims. No surprise here, folks!

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 6:00 PM

enemaofthestatistquo in Monroe, GA said:

Actually the problem is a lack of assimilation. We have an illegal immigration problem in this country. Illegals come from Europe, Asia, Africa, & all points South of the United States, about the only immigration to the US iwhich is not mostly illegal is from Canada, Australia, Japan, China, & the UK, although this is mostly my personal conjecture and I have not verified this assertion as factual. I am a White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant,Conservative, IndeRepubliDent. I have Hispanics in my family, I took Spanish in HS, though I admit I did not learn it well, or had much occasion to try my lack of skill. Recently 11/12/12 , I read a opinion column by a Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star which among other things asserted that Republicans/Conservatives equate as synonyms the phrase "illegal Immigrants" and the word "Latinos". I declare that if a college educated journalist with an Hispanic surname can not discern the distinction between these two different words/phrases, How is it my fault she missed class in English the day the concept of synonyms was covered. Not only that but I venture to guess Ms Sanchez is United States born, raised, and Citizen Yet she thinks by not wanting a horde of uneducated, 3rd world immigrants from the world over who pack in their suitcases the Socialism they come to the US hoping to escape, to line up for free stuff, and dilute my already diluted vote with disinterested ignorance of basic US citizenship civics. How is that a reason for me to be faulted, derided, or otherwise denigrated.? Ms Sanchez for instance, should assimilate before she writes even one more published column.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 1:46 AM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Blind sheep pledge allegience to Obongo, of their divided states of amerika. and to their dictatorship, from which come the goodies, liberal nation- under oppression, divisible, with freebies and Socialism for awl. LOL Mrs. Chavez.

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 6:19 AM

pete in CA said:

The primary question is still and always will be: If this is so good for my, why are you not taking part in it?

Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 1:01 PM

MAJ USA Ret in Saint Louis said:

I am tempted to argue your premise that progressives think (“They thought … it was society,…, that made the man.”). If society makes the man, then homosexuality is not genetic. Progressives won’t acquiesce to that perspective. And though I chuckle at the thought, I regret I am not the wit to have the fun with the mutually exclusive terms “progressives” and “think” as could the late, great Bill Buckly.

Your points are intriguing. I will seek to read Kesler’s book.

Now, most who read this comment will roll their eyes and move on. However, I assert the problem is that Conservatives Are Lost. Conservatives have lost their vision after stepping off their foundation.

The Vision is of a world of liberty within laws by consent of the governed, endowed by the Creator. Is is not man’s, but God’s power that raises or destroys nations. And without His power, liberty cannot prevail, regardless of the will of man. All efforts will be in vain.

The foundation is TRUTH. Creator and TRUTH are one. When we deny one, we loose the other. TRUTH is never found. TRUTH is always and only revealed. And it is our responsibility, who know TRUTH, to reveal HIM to the blind.

The most tragic irony in all of history was a question posed by a ruler two millennia ago to a condemned man. The ruler asked: “What is truth?” The irony was he asked the Answer Himself! TRUTH Incarnate was standing in front of him! Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, who is TRUTH. He is The TRUTH, not “a truth.”

Every major decision a man makes will be faulty until he gains a proper perspective of the whole world as God sees it.
It makes all the difference in eternity!

When conservatives understand moral issues are the poisonous fruits of the root of the weeds that are choking our economy and that the only solution is to dig up the root, then conservatives will know the TRUTH, stand upon the Rock, and see the Vision. Without the Rock, the storm washes away all the structures, and without the Vision, the people perish.

While I have grave concerns this last election is The last election, I also pray for hope. My enduring and constant prayer is for all to acknowledge His glory in time to repent before the appointed time when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess He is Lord.

Monday, November 19, 2012 at 3:34 PM