Illustration by Alexander Hunter for The Washington Times
Conservative voters have a message for the Republican establishment: Not so fast. The Washington-knows-best GOP
insiders who gave us John McCain
, George W. Bush
, Bob Dole
and George H.W. Bush
are now pushing Mitt Romney
. Conservative voters are pushing back. Hard.
conservatives outnumber liberals in America 2-1 - 42 percent to 21
percent, according to Gallup polling - so it’s no surprise that
Republican candidates describe themselves as conservative. Heck, even Barack Obama
once described former president and New Dealer Franklin Delano Roosevelt
, Mr. Big Government
himself, as an “economic conservative.” (Of course, compared to himself, President Obama
is almost right, but that’s another matter.) Yet, for all these
“conservatives,” our out-of-control government continues to metastasize
into every area of our lives, from choosing our light bulbs to choosing
The word “conservative” is at risk of losing its meaning. Liberals like Mr. Obama
have launched a calculated assault on the word, falsely claiming the
mantle in an effort to disguise their march toward statism. What’s far
worse, however, is when conservatives - or at least people who genuinely
believe themselves to be so - erode conservatism from within.
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist,” said French poet Charles Baudelaire
. The greatest trick statists could ever pull would be convincing the voters they are conservatives.
Witness columnist Ann Coulter
who until recently was an unapologetic voice for the conservative
principles of limited government and the free-enterprise system. There’s
a conservative case to be made for Mr. Romney
, at least for his recent conversion to conservatism, but Ms. Coulter
instead chooses to undercut conservatism to benefit her candidate. She
claims that Romneycare, the blueprint for Obamacare, the most dramatic
lunge toward socialism in our lifetime, is “a massive triumph for
conservative free-market principles.”
Does she have any idea the
damage she does to the conservative cause with those words? Shielded by
the Coulter seal of approval for government-run universal health care,
liberals will have little problem labeling as “conservative” any of
their statist agenda - from food stamps to free mortgages.
voters in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado were not willing to toss
aside their conservative principles quite so easily. They understand
that if Ann Coulter
’s (and Mitt Romney
‘s) notion, that government-run health care can somehow be considered conservative,
allowed to stand, then conservatism as we know it is dead. We might as
well change our name to the European States of America and get in line
for government cheese and four-day workweeks.
This is not to say there are no differences between Mr. Romney
and Mr. Obama
. There are, and they are substantial. Mr. Romney
can be moved toward America’s founding conservative principles and Mr. Obama
cannot. Of course, if Ms. Coulter
or anyone else convinces Mr. Romney
that he’s already a conservative and Romneycare proves it, then we’re in deep trouble.
Neither of Mr. Romney
’s two conservative challengers, Newt Gingrich
or Rick Santorum
has an unblemished record, but nonetheless, they do have solid
conservative credentials. Both have at least made attempts to atone for
previous statist positions, while Mr. Romney
, in contrast, bitterly clings to Romneycare.
This amounts to surrendering to the president on his single most vulnerable issue. Moreover, Mr. Romney
may not realize it, but he already has begun surrendering on Mr. Obama
favorite issue of all: class warfare. The president’s re-election
strategy is to turn Americans against each other and then harness that
resentment into votes. Mr. Romney
plays right into Mr. Obama
’s hands by creating his own divisions of the classes with separate sets of rules for each.
and Mr. Santorum
refuse to play on the president’s “99 percent” rhetoric turf. Instead,
they rightly scold the president, who should be serving 100 percent of
Americans. They understand that dividing Americans is not only
inherently wrong but is also the premise for expanding an already
The conservative candidates also reject the
statist notion of a permanent underclass in need of an ever-enlarging
entitlement state. In their own words, Mr. Gingrich
wants to turn the safety net into a trampoline, and Mr. Santorum
wants to extend the ladder of success to the very poor. Meanwhile, Mr. Romney
in his own words, wants to be the president who repairs the holes in
the safety net. Conservatives should aspire to expand the opportunity
society. Anything less is simply managing America’s decline.
Despite Mr. Romney
current lead in the primaries, he just cannot seem to close the sale.
He has amassed nearly 1.2 million votes, but his two conservative rivals
cumulatively have received more than 1.4 million. If the former
governor would like to reach out to the conservative Republican base, I
suggest he start by finally acknowledging the obvious: Government has no
business interposing itself between you and your doctor. He should
begin his Romneycare mea culpa with these three words: I was wrong.
may want to join him.
Dr. Milton R. Wolf, a Washington Times columnist, is a radiologist and President Obama’s cousin. He blogs at miltonwolf.com.