Anticipating John McCain’s defeat (which I am not yet ready to concede), many, particularly on the left, contend that the conservative movement which enjoyed its heyday in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan’s Administration and in the 1990s with a Republican Congress, will finally come to an end.
What these doomsayers* miss is that, in many ways, the conservative movement is now stronger than it ever was. Rush Limbaugh, his radio show amplified by his web presence, is now joined on the air by countless other thoughtful conservatives and right-leaning libertarian voices, including Bill Bennett, Larry Elder and Laura Ingraham. The conservative blogosphere has joined the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, National Review and The Weekly Standard as sources of conservative opinion.
Should McCain lose, they will becoming increasingly powerful. Expect Rush’s audience to soar. Even our readership will increase, as gays who become disgusted with how the national gay groups fawn over a Democratic president (as did HRC over Clinton in the 1990s), will be looking for a place where their views are articulated.
Radio talk show host Mike Koolidge said as much in an email to conservative bloggers (which I quote with his permission):
People like Michelle Malkin, and Rush, and everyone on this list (and thousands of others who nobody knows yet) will become MORE relevant than ever if Obama wins. We will grow exponentially in influence, just like Rush did after Clinton was elected. Country first, yes, but I firmly believe this will be the dawning of a new age of conservative mainstream influence (*cue Hair soundtrack), beyond talk radio and blogs (with those as a base, of course)
It’s not just blogs and talk radio. In the debate on the financial sector bailout, the Republican minority and not the party in power was the source of new ideas. When Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson sketched out his plan to bail out the financial sector, Democrats tacked on some of the standard notions from their playbook, such as limiting executive pay and providing a slush fund for their favored interest groups, but didn’t come up with any bold new initiatives.
In the most recent crisis, we saw an intellectual fervor among the GOP caucus such as we hadn’t seen since the Contract with America. Even George Will, mostly cynical about the GOP nowadays, took notice:
The rising generation of thoughtful Republicans was represented on both sides of Monday’s vote. Virginia’s Eric Cantor, 45, and Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, 38, supported the legislation because they had helped to achieve substantial improvements in it, such as requiring financial institutions to help finance their bailout, giving the Treasury potentially valuable equity in firms revived by public funds, and eliminating a slush fund for Democratic activists. Texas’s Jeb Hensarling, 51, and Indiana’s Mike Pence, 49, voted against what they considered a rescue model fundamentally flawed because (in Hensarling’s words) it “could permanently and fundamentally change the role of government.”
If McCain loses, conservatives may be out of power (heck, I’ve argued we haven’t had a conservative president at least since 2006), but we will not be out of ideas. Just look at Obama’s platform, look at what the House Democrats propose, just the same old, same old tired liberalism. Government spending and increased regulaton as the solution to our problems.
Should McCain lose, conservatives will be reinvigorated in opposition, particularly with the shackles to the Bush Administration released. And should McCain win, we’ll have a ready audience at the Naval Observatory.
*The temptation to use the expression “Cassandras” was strong, but I did not want to contribute to the misunderstanding of this myth. She was not a doomsayer. Apollo had given her the gift of prophecy, but when she rebuked his advances, he wanted to punish her. Since an Olympian could not withdraw a gift once granted, he instead gave her a different “gift,” that of never being believed.