November 8, 2008 | Commentary on Political Thought
How fitting that, having campaigned on conservative themes throughout the fall, President-elect Barack Obama's acceptance speech concluded with words that should warm the heart of conservatives everywhere.
"This is our time," he said, to "reaffirm that fundamental truth that, out of many, we are one. That while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can."
An abiding belief in our country's greatness, tinged with optimism, has long been a cornerstone of conservatism. And Mr. Obama's been tacitly leaning toward conservative ideas since he became the Democratic nominee. Even though his record indicated he was the most liberal candidate in (at least) a generation, he took some conservative positions on issues like taxes (promising to cut them), homeland security (strengthening border security) and energy (saying he'd at least consider offshore drilling).
This is no surprise, since poll after poll showed Americans remain fundamentally conservative.
For example, an October Rasmussen survey found that 59 percent of voters agree that government is the problem and not the solution. Just 28 percent disagree with that conservative tenet.
On taxes, the same survey found that 58 percent of voters favor tax cuts over another stimulus bill containing new government spending. Only 32 percent think the government should pass another economic stimulus package.
Another survey, taken less than a week before the election by the Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners, showed that 57 percent of Americans called themselves "somewhat conservative" or "very conservative." Only 35 percent consider themselves "somewhat liberal" or "very liberal."
The problem is that both political parties have failed Americans.
In recent years the Republican Party, which in Reagan's hands carried the conservative standard to new heights, lost its way. Federal spending now tops $25,000 per household annually, and the coming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid costs of 77 million retiring baby boomers threaten to add another $12,000 per household to the taxpayers' annual tab. Yet neither party offers a solution to the entitlement crisis or a real plan to cut spending.
Again, the generally conservative American people sense this. A Rasmussen poll shows 59 percent of Americans would vote to replace the entire Congress if they could do so. Back in August, Rasmussen found that a mere 9 percent of likely voters approve of the job Congress is doing, while half say it's doing a poor job. That's even lower than the 25 percent approval rating voters give President Bush.
Conservatism is a big tent, and our policies of low taxes, a strong military and personal responsibility are good for wealthy elites and blue-collar workers. It was no surprise to conservatives that Joe the Plumber recognized that, along with millions of others.
Mr. Obama ran to the right, claiming 95 percent of Americans would get a tax cut under his administration, because polls show broad support for that conservative principle. To cite just one example, an Americans for Prosperity survey two years ago showed 62 percent of Americans want to extend the Bush tax cuts, as opposed to 25 percent who want to allow taxes to rise. Sixty-one percent of Americans want a permanent elimination of the death tax, as opposed to 22 percent who want it brought back in 2011.
Today, Republicans who have lost touch with their conservative roots are in trouble. Conservatives, on the other hand, are thriving.
Our ideas enjoy more outlets than ever before, crushing liberal ideas in the free market. Our viewpoint dominates hundreds of talk radio programs and scores of national magazines.
Conservatives have also achieved a staggering presence on the Internet. Look no further than Townhall.com, the largest online conservative portal. It links to some 450 conservative columnists; to a 100-partner organization that include conservative think tanks and other policy organizations; and to more than 8,000 Internet blogs dedicated to every conceivable issue.
As the new Congress is sworn in, conservatives stand ready to reach out, offering our support and our popular ideas.
In short, you'll find us on your local newspaper's front page, not on its obituary page, for decades to come.
Ed Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).
First appeared in the Washington Times