Yes, I'm serious with that question: Are Conservatives Smart? I don’t mean in an IQ kind of way, but more in a street-smart, politically-savvy kind of way. The more I travel conservative circles and hear responses from those who claim to be conservative, the more I am inclined to think we conservatives are not politically smart.
One such item that bothers my colleague, G.W. Washington, and myself is the inability of conservatives to see the long-view on the political landscape. Conservatives are mostly about the next election. Rarely, if ever, have I been in the presence of conservatives and learn about their 20-, 10- or even 5-year plan. Why? Because most conservatives do not think that far ahead. Conservatives are easily angered by liberals and progressive policies, vowing to do all they can to get rid of the bums in Washington, Salem or Klamath Falls. However, if doing so requires building a strategic 10-year plan, all bets are off. Conservatives can not seem to seem to see beyond hill just in front of them.
This is why conservatives play defense so much of the time. We seem to be always voting “No” to liberal agendas. Very rarely are conservatives putting ballot initiatives together in order to move their agenda forward. Where is the ballot measure to make County Commissioners partisan again? Where is the ballot initiative to require 50% of voters to approve any sort of new tax or levy? Where are the ballot initiatives to lower property taxes? Where are they? Of course every now and then there are exceptions. But you will see this play out if you look at your November ballot. Notice that there is not one conservative agenda on the ballot — all of the ideas and ballot measures are progressive ones.
While short term elections matter, a myopic focus on them is a concern for the conservative movement. One example of such folly is conservatives thinking that a moderate Republican in office is better than a liberal Democrat. This conservative mantra was created by William F. Buckley, Jr. over 50 years ago. While I respect Mr. Buckley for all hsi work to advance conservative cause, this particular theory has proven to be a disaster for the conservative movement. Suppose a moderate Republican and a Liberal Democrat are running for office. If the moderate Republican wins, we conservatives cheer because we obverted disaster and that we now have someone to work with for our conservative issues. While not our first choice, the moderate Republican is certainly better than the liberal Democrat... or is it? That's the common thinking: moderate Republican is better than a liberal Democrat. I would agree with that premise only IF you look at the short term — a single election cycle. And herein lies my point. Conservatives have a great tendency to only look at the short term, not the longer view.
Let me ask, do moderate Republicans become more conservative or more liberal the longer they remain in office? The correct answer is more liberal. So if a moderate Republican wins, how do we ever replace him or her with a conservative candidate? The answer is it is incredibly difficult. We end up fighting the Republican machine that is only interested in an R occupying the office, not conservative principles. The GOP owns that seat so we are told to go somewhere else and try and unseat a Democrat — leave this seat alone, it is an R, it is good enough. Once a moderate Republican is in place, a conservative has little chance to replace that moderate Republican until the he or she retires. However, suppose conservatives did not support the moderate Republican and a liberal Democrat were to win the seat. When is the next real chance a conservative can win the seat? The next election. If the conservative wins the primary, they can draw a stark contrast between themselves and their opponent. Moreover, the conservative can directly tie failed polices to the liberal — who will actually champion them! Finally, the conservative will have the Republican party backing them, instead of fighting them.
So when changing perspective to a longer-view, electing a moderate Republican is really a false victory for the conservative cause, and at best a very short-term victory. I argue it is far better to suffer one term of a liberal Democrat and gear up for the next election cycle with a good conservative candidate, than limp along for years (and decades), only getting the back-of-the-hand treatment from a moderate Republican who only pretends to care about anything conservative. If you don't believe me, then tell me how conservatives will we ever take our State legislature, US House or Senate? Oh sure, Republicans might gain control, but that is far different than conservative control. The only way is to win this war is to start thinking long-term and strategically. We need to stop doing things because that’s the way it’s always been done — and that means stop supporting moderate Republicans.