Laying the foundation for a political comeback.
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The grassroots networks discussed above would help greatly with the communications challenge. Conservative think tanks should look to communicate in part through these networks. Conservative intellectuals should look to tour the country speaking to such groups.
But there needs to be an additional, special focus. There are about 80 congressional swing districts now mostly represented by Democrats, especially Democrats who campaigned as conservatives to defeat incumbent Republicans. A special communications network needs to be set up for these districts. Local newspapers, radio stations, TV news people, local talk show hosts need to be identified for each such district. They then need to be targeted for commentary submissions, interviews with conservative policy experts, local speaking engagements by such experts, etc. These districts should also be a special focus for grassroots organizing.
Facts and analysis on the key contested issues in Washington should be poured into these districts. But most important would be how the supposedly conservative local congressional representative is voting in Washington, what bills he or she is sponsoring, what he or she is saying in Washington and elsewhere out of the district.
Any conservative organization can take the lead in identifying the local media contacts in these districts, and then making that network available to other conservative organizations. In fact, any think tank or other conservative organization can set up its own op-ed columnist syndicate to compete with the Copley News Service, Knight-Ridder, and other columnist distributors. Ideally, the organization would develop relationships with op-ed page editors across the country, including at the local papers in the key congressional districts, as well as at major newspapers nationwide. A well-known, big name conservative affiliated with the organization could tour these newspapers to help establish and solidify such contacts.
The Tax Opportunity
The central promise of the Obama campaign was to cut taxes for the bottom 95% of income earners. Obama stated in one of the debates that if you were in the bottom 95%, “your taxes will go down, not up.” Conservatives must now enforce that campaign promise.
The minute Obama or anyone else in Congress proposes to raise taxes on anyone in the bottom 95%, conservatives must explode, calling on Obama’s own campaign promise in opposition. This is key to stopping massive expansions of big government, because the government is not going to get much additional revenue trying to tax the top 5% even more. It is also the key for a conservative comeback.
Undoubtedly, some on the left will argue that everyone breaks their campaign promises. Conservatives would be foolish to let them get away with this. Such an argument would effectively take our democracy away from us, for how can we tell who to vote for except through what the candidates say and promise during their campaigns? How can we vote for the policies we want if candidates can just dismiss what they said once elected? George Bush Sr. was voted out of office because he broke his pledge not to raise taxes. Conservatives must now try to do the same to Obama, and the liberal-left congressional majorities.
And we do not need to be shy about what constitutes a tax increase. An individual mandate requiring workers to buy health insurance, which Obama explicitly opposed during the election, is a tax increase on the bottom 95%. So is a carbon tax or cap and trade global warming regulation that would directly raise the price of energy and its use, including electricity, gas, and maybe cars. In fact, global warming regulation is another factor that will be powerful in bringing down the Obama Administration and the liberal-left majorities, with its high costs and disastrous economic effects. Conservatives need to be alert to pounce on this as well.
What we need to avoid on taxes, and other issues across the board, is the strategy of the smart surrender, giving in to policies we oppose in order to make them less bad. Too many conservatives are arguing now for adoption of a carbon tax to fight global warming, and to shift our economy from oil, gas and coal use, with the new tax revenues to be offset by tax cuts elsewhere. This ultraliberal Congress is not going to offset any new tax with other tax cuts. Wave a dollar in front of the noses of this band of pirates and thieves, and they will immediately spend two. We need to fight and win, not lose by falling for less bad defeats. Indeed, the more brilliant we are in achieving these less bad defeats, the longer the liberals will dominate in office.
Global warming and the carbon tax are perfect examples of the biggest problem with the strategy of the smart surrender. The intellectual and political tides are already turning against the big lie of global warming. Even the lefty European public is showing now that it is not willing to bear any significant cost for this fairy tale. That will be so much more true for the American public, even more so with the weak economy. But if we spend our resources focusing on smart surrenders on this issue, we will get the surrender just when victory is at hand.
The biggest threat conservatives face from the now ruling liberal left is a new, massive, overwhelming entitlement in the form of national health insurance. Once such a giveaway is adopted, it will be very difficult to reverse, more so than the rest of the Obama liberal-left agenda. This will mean not only massively higher taxes and spending. It will mean also the destruction of our health care system, as investment in both human and physical capital, meaning the best in doctors and surgeons, as well as new high tech medicine, medical equipment, and drug therapies, is driven away by big government control squeezing out profits and opportunities for economic gain in health care.
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