"And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o’ thine! And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne." How can conservatives translate the momentum of 2017 into success in the new year? Focus on five resolutions for 2018:
1. Abide Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment
"Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican." Ronald Reagan popularized this “Eleventh Commandment,” which then-California Republican Party chairman Gaylord Parkison to combat the constant attacks against the Gipper by his co-partisans. Parkinson’s goal was to prevent a repeat of the East Coast Republican assault on Barry Goldwater, whom party elites like Nelson Rockefeller assailed as “extremist” and unfit to hold office. Sound familiar? After two years of conservative pearl-clutching, hand-wringing, and self-flagellation, President Trump defied the expectations of his myriad critics on the Right by delivering the most conservative year of public policy in a generation. Such unparalleled successes should give his conservative opponents pause when next they feel the urge to parrot the mainstream media’s latest anti-Trump calumny. Which brings us to our next resolution…
2. Distrust consensus.
Remember when everyone knew that Donald Trump could never defeat Hillary Clinton, and even if he could, that he would never appoint originalists to the federal courts, install conservatives at the executive agencies, deregulate, reform the tax code, move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, dismantle ISIS in Iraq and Syria, withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, repeal Obamacare’s anti-constitutional individual mandate, defund Planned Parenthood, prohibit taxpayer dollars from subsidizing abortion overseas, achieve 3% economic growth, reduce illegal immigration to 17-year lows, or destroy the credibility of the Democrat-Media complex? How about when global cooling, then global warming, then unfalsifiable climate change would permanently flood Manhattan, extinguish the polar bears, and end human life as we know it?
Environmentalists have for years cited “the scientific consensus” on man-caused global warming to buttress their claims, as if widespread agreement implied the truth of an opinion. But as 2017 showed us, the consensus view is almost always wrong. That, for instance, is how investors make money in the stock market. The price of a stock reflects the consensus view, and yet the price constantly changes. In order to make a return the investor must bet against the commonly held opinion. Fifty million Frenchmen can be wrong and frequently are. Smart investors know this; astute political observers should too. Speaking of contravening orthodoxy…
3. Use only the best words, folks.
The Left weaponizes language to evade debate, subvert culture, and advance its agenda. Political correctness replaces clear language with insidious euphemisms to obscure reality and tilt policy debates in the Left’s favor. Any reasonable citizen would enforce federal immigration law with regard to illegal aliens, but only a hard-hearted bigot could deport a “dreamer.” Juvenile delinquents ought to be punished, but “justice-involved youth” need a hug from the society that has failed them. Republicans start wars; Democrats manage “overseas contingency operations.” On the high end of estimates, 0.3% of Americans suffer from gender confusion. Why then has the cultural Left launched a years-long campaign to confuse gendered pronouns and facilities at every social institution, from the campus to the workplace to the federal government? Sly euphemisms give away whole premises, which in turn shape culture, which sets public policy. Conservatives should take care to use only clear, precise language— “the best words”—lest we concede even one syllable to leftist barbarians. Such civilization-defining stakes should spur conservatives to…
4. Remember politics isn’t all about you.
The vote is an instrument to effect political goals, and thus conservatives should vote for the most right viable candidate. So goes the Buckley Rule, which self-appointed conservative elites respected until Donald Trump took up residence in some of their heads, where he has lived rent-free for the past 22 months. Jonah Goldberg expressed the moral error at the heart of this obsession. “If the election were a perfect tie, and the vote fell to me and me alone, I’d probably vote for none other than Donald Trump for precisely these reasons,” he admitted. “But I will never vote for Donald Trump. […] My vote doesn’t matter. What matters, at least to me, is that I can sleep with a clear conscience.” The usually insightful Goldberg is wrong on both counts.
If one’s vote truly did not matter no one ever would vote. But no voter believes his vote doesn’t matter. Margins of victory can determine a political momentum, set the tone of media coverage, and mitigate legal challenges from the losing side. Occasionally a single vote decides an election. As Jonah explained, “Never Trump” prioritized the perception of one’s own moral superiority through abdication of democratic duty over the actual betterment of his country. It’s an easy error to make in an ideologically obsessed age, which leads us to our final resolution…
5. Resist ideology.
Much like consensus opinion, ideologies are always to some degree wrong. The word is a creation of the Left, coined after the French Revolution and popularized by Karl Marx. The underappreciated political philosopher Michael Oakeshott offered a good definition of ideology as “the formalized abridgment of the supposed substratum of rational truth contained in the tradition.” But politics is “the affairs of the cities,” how men relate to one another, and no pseudo-scientific abridgment could ever comprehend human nature. No less a statesman than Otto von Bismarck observed, “Politics is the art of the possible.” It isn’t about standing for disembodied ideas; it isn’t about standing at all. It’s about doing. Lord Acton described the dilemma:
At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has been sometimes disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition, and by kindling dispute over the spoils in the hour of success.
Last year was a stunning success. This year presents even greater opportunities. But politics requires action, and action carries risk. So what? Conservatives’ five resolutions for 2018 should boil down to one simple action: make America great again.