Wisconsin Interest Special Series: Is Conservatism Out of Gas?
Targeting Conservative Constituencies
By Mark W. Neumann
Bold new ideas leading to a smaller less intrusive government where the citizens accept responsibility for their lives and the well being of themselves and their families—and are rewarded for accepting this responsibility by being allowed to keep more of their hard earned money—this is what is needed for conservatism to thrive as a movement in America.
It is my belief that there are two major components of the conservative movement in America. First, there are those motivated primarily by pocketbook issues. These will be the folks working for lower taxes and a smaller, less intrusive government. Their focus and their vote will be determined primarily by tax and spending issues.
The second component of the conservative movement in America is made up of “hot button” issue folks. Primarily single issues within the conservative realm of thought motivate these people.
There are large blocks of people that have a single issue not as a litmus test creating intolerance, but rather as a qualifier to look further at a candidate and/or group that they may support or work for. These folks will accept that in America all people are entitled to their points of view, but within their rights in America; they refuse to actively support candidates and/or groups that fail in a single-issue area.
The largest number of these folks are motivated by the issues of abortion, second amendment rights, social security, and the traditional concept of marriage. There are smaller single issue groups interested in education reform such as school choice, immigration, legal issues, and the like, but these numbers are much smaller than the first group.
When one looks at the just-past election cycle, by and large conservative candidates were defeated, leading some to conclude that the conservative movement in America is dead.
It is difficult however to find a candidate that forged a coalition between these key conservative groups.
In fact if one were to ask the key issues in either the national races or the state races, it would be challenging to find one race where taxes, abortion, social security, gay rights, or second amendment rights were in the conservative candidate’s top five issues, at least as perceived by the public. The result is the conservative candidate lost.
The lack of commitment by conservatives to the key conservative motivational issues has lead to a strong swing in the pendulum toward the liberal point of view.
This pendulum however, is likely to swing back in a conservative direction as the realities of liberal views sink in. As the outcomes of more government involvement in our lives and higher taxes on the working folks become realities, it will cause a resurgence of the conservative movement.
It will likely be led by bold leaders talking of bold ideas to make America a better place for our children and grandchildren. The ideas will include lower tax rates on workers and will form coalitions in the other core conservative groups. The talk will need to be supported by reasonable and understandable logic as to how to accomplish the ideas.
The leaders will also need to be charismatic enough to communicate how these changes will in fact permit the United States of America to have a brighter future.
Ultimately the conservative movement, led by folks boldly standing for conservative principles and ideas, will return to leadership roles in this great country.
Mark W. Neumann is a former Representative to the U.S. Congress from Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. He ran for U.S. Senate in 1998.