A provocative article out this morning by Matt Cochran entitled “Conservatism is Obsolete” in which he asks a question all conservatives need to consider:
What exactly are we conserving?
Much of the points Cochran makes have been made here in Mississippi by Sen. Chris McDaniel, myself and others of the UCF team as we have traveled the state and communicated the need for conservatives to coalesce behind a new way forward.
That message is that we are seeking more than to simply conserve our social and political traditions; we are seeking to renew and revive them. UCF doesn’t propose a way back, we propose a way forward, built on the promise of a new coalition focused on traditional constitutionally conservative values and political engagement. UCF will organize at the point where government, and the issues that bureaucracy proposes to correct, is closest to the people.
As UCF Chairman, Sen. McDaniel has put this in clear terms; we must “unite all factions of the conservative movement” and debate without “screaming and name calling.”
My interpretation of that statement: If we don’t work together for our common goal and the common good then we will lose. Beware any one person or group who promotes themselves as the savior. We have to do this together.
The coalition represented on the UCF Executive Committee is the first step in doing just that. The committee, made up of social and fiscal conservatives, Libertarians, TEA Party members, and members of the newly forming MS Conservative Coalitions, is comprised by a group of strong leaders dedicated to bringing people back into the political process. This formation represents something unlike any other organized effort in the state or, for that matter, across the country.
UCF aims to be more than just a center of organizational strength, but a hub of important, intelligent discussion and debate that changes the way people look at their own role, that of their elected leaders and the role of government. The aim is to lift up communities by empowering people to understand the interconnected nature of bureaucracy, policy and politics at the local, state and federal level, and to face it down at the level of government most responsive to the voice of the people. In this way, every citizen has a role in defending their rights whether at city halls, county courthouses, or the state capitol.
We do not propose to have a handpicked few dictate the most expedient political path towards victory, but to engage the many to shine a light on the rot in the system and, most importantly, facilitate a discussion of how we might remove the rot and rebuild.
That is a point Cochran makes when he writes:
Thoughtful conservatives need to consider how much of what they now conserve actually belongs to Progressive mistakes of the last generation. We need to re-evaluate our own approaches—particularly whether simply conserving is still an appropriate approach to governing America. We need to ask ourselves a hard question: Is there really enough left of the America we love that conserving is the best course? Or is it time to rebuild and renew instead?
If America has devolved to a point where its population is largely incapable of maintaining limited self-government, then the work of those who desire such freedom needs to start with raising citizens virtuous enough to do the job Americans won’t do—and we clearly cannot look to government to do it for us.
Those who look to politics as the only solution are looking for a quick fix. We didn’t get into this overnight, we allowed it to happen incrementally. Likewise, we won’t get it back all at once in one election. It will take years of dedication and a willingness to remain dedicated to responsibility at every level, to education of what that responsibility entails and to rid ourselves of the notion that we can hand the work off to some adopted hero.
As Cochran writes:
There is growing promise in replacing (or at least displacing) rotten institutions rather than simply conserving them.
What are these “rotten institutions”? I can think of a few programs that should be challenged on their false assumptions. One of the reasons our elected leaders can’t legitimately have discussions about cuts in spending today is, in part, because they have bought into the programs they fund as necessary. As such, the discussion has become about what the state can and cannot afford to do, rather than the root cause of problems.
Take Medicaid for example. Politicians who have been against Medicaid expansion in Jackson have done so on the basis that Mississippi can’t afford it. Were the real discussion about the poor outcomes of Medicaid, the inefficiency and abuses and what the program actually does and doesn’t accomplish, then discussion about funding wouldn’t be the issue. Were the discussion about how the program actually causes the problem then the need to get rid of a system that doesn’t work would be the goal. It should be the goal.
The same holds true for pushes in funding new programs for universal Pre-K, economic development programs, workforce development, public education and funding schemes like MAEP, just to name a few others. The list of bureaucratic and manmade schemes to get a piece of the taxpayers money is long and littered with stories of failure and abuse.
Cochran closes the article in a summation I can’t improve upon, so I’ll give him the last word.
Our nation did not come about through the conservation of the unjust order that American patriots found themselves in. It came through the work of men and women bravely willing to go their own way according to their principles and virtues. The time has come for conservatives to be those men and women once again and build something better than what we have been left with.
Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett