Last week Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) spoke at a Heritage Foundation event, conveying a positive conservative vision of a society worth fighting for and working towards. This is how you inspire and encourage people. If you don’t have time to watch the video, make sure you read the transcript (via Hot Air and NRO).
…But for the Left, the defensive crouch at least makes sense. Liberalism’s main purpose today is to defend its past gains from conservative reform.
But negativity on the Right, to my mind, makes no sense at all.
The Left has created this false narrative that liberals are for things, and conservatives are against things.
When we concede this narrative, even just implicitly, we concede the debate… before it even begins….
We say we are for lower taxes, or less regulation, or spending restraint. But those are just policies we advocate. They’re not what we’re really for. What we’re really for are the good things those policies will yield to the American people.
What we’re really for is the kind of society those policies would allow the American people to create, together….
Ours has never been a vision of isolated, atomized loners. It is a vision of husbands and wives; parents and children; neighbors and neighborhoods; volunteers and congregations; bosses and employees; businesses and customers; clubs, teams, groups, associations… and friends….
Our vision of American freedom is of two separate but mutually reinforcing institutions: a free enterprise economy and a voluntary civil society….
Conservatives’ commitment to civil society begins, of course, with the family, and the paramount, indispensable institution of marriage….
Tell people what you are for and why. In winter 2012 in his column, Romney’s Businessman Pitch Won’t Work, Robert Reilly wrote that when Republicans fail to have what GHWB called the “vision thing,” they lose (emphasis added).
…Time and again, they’ve been defeated by Democrats proclaiming such things as the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier, the Great Society, and “hope and change.”
The Great Communicator Ronald Reagan, who spoke mostly in moral terms, was the magnificent exception. He understood that Washington is not a management problem; it is a political problem. Everything the government does is necessarily political, because governments decide not only who gets what, but why. These choices define a candidate’s politics, but they must be conceived and expressed in terms of moral priorities.
Political language is inherently moral, not managerial. It must convey visions, not just plans. It must explain why some things are good and others bad.
Instincts are never enough. You need to have thought about politics in the philosophical sense to know what is going on….
If you cannot articulate the cause for which you are fighting in moral terms, you will lose.
In 2009 Thomas Friedman discussed the demise of leadership in Are We Home Alone? He included this statement from Dov Seidman (emphasis added).
“There is nothing more powerful than inspirational leadership that unleashes principled behavior for a great cause,” said Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, and the author of the book “How.” What makes…a government “sustainable,” he added, is not when it adds more coercive rules and regulations to control behaviors. “It is when…citizens are propelled by values and principles to do the right things, no matter how difficult the situation,” said Seidman. “Laws tell you what you can do. Values inspire in you what you should do. It’s a leader’s job to inspire in us those values.”
Progressives always have to hide what they are for and use conservative or utopian terms, because they know a majority of Americans won’t be persuaded by their goal of a totalitarian state. Moderates seem to be incapable of articulating any vision at all. The conservative vision is a positive and beneficial society, and conservatives need to think it through, discuss it out, and speak it now.