Being conservative isn't easy right now. On the Canadian side of the border people seem to be in thrall to the boy king, Justin Trudeau and his shirtless adventures. Despite surviving the last election in better than expected condition, the Conservative party of Canada seems to become more irrelevant every day, its once talented benches now filled with boring, faceless members. People are in love with Justin's meaningless bromides and laugh at his every joke even as he systematically dismantles every initiative from the previous Conservative government for the sole reason that it was an initiative by the Conservative government.
South of the border the situation is even worse. Donald Trump has hijacked the Republican party and brought in legions of the worst sort, Neo-nazis and similar ilk in his attempts to destroy the party and throw the election to ensure Hillary Clinton wins despite her abysmal personal ratings. Calling yourself conservative in the US seems to get you associated with these slack-jawed yokels and their despicable leader.
What is needed is a crushing defeat for the Republicans in November and some real soul-searching for the Conservatives in Canada in order to rebuild the parties along new lines. Conservativism in the last couple of decades has morphed from a classical political movement into a reactionary ideology with limited ideas and a minimal vision. True conservatives have to retake centre stage, oust the ideologues and reassert a proper program for the electorate to consider before they can court true electoral success and societal influence again.
What should this new conservativism look like? Any movement needs an overall vision, something simple upon which to base all the various ideas and initiatives that will come after. I propose the following: the current battle between Left and Right is a battle between rights and responsibilities. The Left has been promoting an agenda for decades based on rights, on the individual taking from society without any need to pay back. People are told they have rights and entitlements and are encouraged to line up and demand them at every opportunity. As a result we have a society in perpetual debt. People have lost the ability to budget, to self-constrain, to say no to themselves (although they retain a surprisingly strong ability to say it to others). As a physician I see this all the time. I want to prescribe a medication that is appropriate and the patient immediately inquires as to whether his drug plan will cover it, making it very clear that if it isn't he won't since he doesn't have the finances. He smokes, drinks on a regular basis, has a cell phone and hi speed internet but doesn't have the money for medications and doesn't think he should because society has taught him to believe he is entitled to anything he needs medically. Corporate North America has bought into this as well. Once upon a time we had to wait until December 27 to begin Boxing Day shopping. Now the internet allows people to begin their post-holiday shopping on the December 25 holiday itself. Easy credit, don't pay for 12-18 months, put yourself into debt and with interest rates so low you never have to worry about digging yourself out of it. You are entitled to that, says the Left.
The first difficulty of the Right is combating this attitude. Obviously a head on confrontation is not appropriate. Imagine a parent offering unlimited candy and no need to do any chores facing off against a parent who wants beds made, vegetables eaten and homework done on time. We all know the latter parent is the better one and that following her advice will lead to better outcomes in the long term but if we've been raised as spoiled brats with no sense of self-denial we will side with the candy-toting parent every time. A Right political party preaching about less government services, more self-reliance and the like will get pummelled in a general election by an electorate that is used to the two sides competing to see who can offer more free goodies. Telling people to be responsible for themselves when they are already used to the gentle caress of the nanny state will lead nowhere.
Instead the Right needs to offer a different emphasis. The first is to hammer home a simple message: government is not a better solution to anything. We are often told by the Left as it seeks to expand government control over our lives that the nanny state is better at handling certain matters. Obama's famous "You didn't build it" statement is the classic motto. The assumption is that my business is successful because I use roads the government built, programs the government paid for, seek protection under government laws, and so on. At every point the Left attempts to convince folks that the reason for their increasing encroachment is because of the rapacious nature of the private sector. Yet time and time again we see examples of government corruption that dwarf any crimes the private sector could commit. A look at Hillary Clinton's recent e-mail scandal in which the FBI admitted that she had committed criminal offences but that they weren't going to charge her (after her husband coincidentally met with the Attorney General, hmmmmmm) proves that. The private sectors cuts services to maximize profit? The government blows billions in kickbacks and diversions which leads to more national and provincial debt while becoming more incompetent at providing the basic services that it says only it can truly provide.
The first emphasis of the Right is to combat this myth aggressively. When people talk about how great the nanny state is, there needs to be a pushback pointing out its waste, corruption and lack of ability to deliver on its promises. Success stories from the private industry need to be put up against government graft and cronyism and people need to be told that their assumptions are lies they believe simply because they've been told them for so long.
With this first push the Right can get back into the conversation instead of playing defence while losing market share.
More to come....