04.12.2013 0

Conservatives Seek Leadership to Cure Malaise

By David Bozeman — Reflections on the passing of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher highlight the burnout, some would call malaise, inflicting many American conservatives today.

After the customary condolences for the Iron Lady, the most common lament is how we could use someone like her, right here, right now.  Indeed, most any problem inflicting the modern conservative movement stems from a pitiful, painful, glaring and needless lack of leadership.

We’re not just talking about self-identified conservatives here — everyday citizens who love their country rarely, if ever, hear their president extol America’s defining values and institutions or offer encouragement to the unemployed and those who create opportunity.  The president, in fact, masterfully dodges any responsibility or accountability and conducts himself more like a pop star than a real leader with an iron-clad spine.

Conservative and libertarian-minded Americans typically find hope and community with each other, but technology, including social networking, can isolate as much as connect.  Simply, conservative Americans crave leadership to galvanize their movement, thus explaining some of the sorrow at the passing of Lady Thatcher.

The former prime minister boasted a less than stellar conservative record — she was an enthusiastic advocate of Britain’s National Health Care System.  To be fair, few, if any, leaders can claim a record of unblemished ideological purity, but it was almost as much Thatcher’s fearless resolve as any particular policy that won admiration from all over the world.

Interestingly, conservatives and Republicans have less reason than they realize to hang their heads in an endless funk.  Republicans hold 30 governorships, including North Carolina, which just elected its first GOP leader in a generation.  Furthermore, Pat McCrory’s party controls both houses of the state legislature and is already reforming Medicaid and the tax code.

While the Republican majority in the U.S. House may not inspire much pride, more Americans still identify themselves as conservatives in most polls.  According to Gallup in 2012, conservatives outnumbered liberals by about a two to one margin: conservatives 40 percent, liberals 21 percent and moderates around 30 percent.

Those numbers vary and conservatism still faces challenges with shifting demographics and public perception.  Nonetheless, the American right can take heart — and opportunity — in the president’s sagging public approval numbers and in the knowledge that the next presidential election will be an open contest, which, historically (at least since FDR), favors the party not in the White House.

That bears mentioning because leadership is what defines any national party or movement.  Leadership offers a public face, a point of reference.  The conservative movement can boast numerous fine spokespersons and a potentially strong bench for 2016, but no one has yet to emerge with character, connection and backbone, able to win over new voters and unite the various factions of conservatism and libertarianism.

Thus the malaise, the burnout, the funk.

Each news cycle presents a banal sameness.  Predictability permeates public discourse, and even favorite pundits (sometimes, at least) grow stale with each cable news appearance.  America, not just the conservative movement, demands leadership, not moderation.  Principle, not compromise.

The times demand less charisma and more candor.  Too many “leaders” are cautious and calculating — a raw, gutsy burst of testosterone (whether from a man or a woman) into politics would make millions of Americans stand up and cheer.

Till then, we anonymous armchair warriors are kind of on our own.  We have each other, we have ideas and traditions.  The one thing we must never surrender is our resolve.

Those who cherish Constitutional self-government and capitalism must not only hold onto those ideals, they must unite and forge onward to create a true national renaissance.  The future may well depend on it, because the statists are banking their continued dominance on your never-ending burnout.

David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

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