Offense or Defense
Posted on February 19, 2010The first time I went to CPAC was in the mid-nineties. I worked for Tom DeLay at the time, and DeLay was completely in his element.
CPAC is a trade show for conservative activists. It is a place where Ann Coulter books sell like hotcakes. You can find big booths for the National Rifle Association, pro-life groups, and any other libertarian and very conservative group.
These groups don’t necessarily agree on their specific issues. The Poker Players Alliance has a booth that it not that far from the Focus on Family booth, for example.
And when Republicans run the government, CPAC can become kind of mess. It is uncomfortable to blame your own friends for screwing up, but confabs like CPAC really thrive on negative energy. It is far more fun and amusing to stop things than it is to make the necessary compromises to get things done.
CPAC is loving life right now. Not only do they have Barack Obama, who is every right-wing talk show host’s most glorious dream, but the Congress is also being run by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. If you get bored beating up on Mr. Obama, you can always beat Pelosi (rhetorically) like a piñata. Or, as a few younger conservatives have done, actually make a piñata in Pelosi’s likeness and then beat that.
These conservative activists are having a lot of fun, because the conservative movement has done a remarkable job in stopping the Obama/Pelosi/Reid juggernaut. Despite having an overwhelming majority in House, and the hightest vote toll in the Senate since late 1970’s, Democrats couldn’t get anything done, except for a bloated stimulus package that they largely constructed before the President was sworn in.
But isn’t it time for the conservative movement (and Republicans in general) to come up with a plan to go on offense. Jim DeMint has famously said that he would rather have 40 ideologically pure colleagues than a majority that might include some who are more ideologically suspect. That makes sense if all you care about is playing defense and stopping things.
It makes no sense if you have an agenda that you want to achieve and more importantly, is achievable.
What are some of those things? How about a tax code that doesn’t kill jobs? How about a legal system that is understandable to non-lawyers? How about social safety net that doesn’t bankrupt the country? How about a health care system that doesn’t cost consumers an arm and a leg? How about a government that is actually responsive and government employees that are actually competent?
Are these dreams the impossible dream? I don’t think so. Not only are they possible, they are necessary if we want to flourish as a society.
When you go to CPAC, you see a lot of booths that promote silly things that are impractical in the political and policy arena. We are not going back to the gold standard. We are not getting rid of the Federal Reserve. We are wasting our time by pushing for prayer in public schools (it’s is not constitutional). Intelligent design? Come on, people.
Let’s go on offense on things that really matter. Let’s fix the government so that we can move the country forward. And let’s come with a strategy that will get us the votes in the House and the Senate to do it.