What’s Next for Conservatives?

Let’s help our frustrated, polarized nation to not only look forward, but to look up.

By Rita Peters Published on April 4, 2019

As we gear up for another election season, the time has come for perplexed conservatives to smooth their wrinkled foreheads and look forward. We helped to elect a president who has championed some great policies. But his personality and language often make us cringe, and they have led to a backlash of enthusiasm for far-Left ideas. The question we need to be asking is, “What do we do now?” This is the question I explore in my new book, Restoring America’s Soul.

What Does It Mean to Be a Conservative?

Once upon a time, conservatives might have described themselves as people who resisted change. But in a year when only 29% of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction, our nation is in desperate need of change.

We live in a culture that is vulgar, coarse, and cynical. Our federal government often operates outside the rule of law. In this context, advancing conservative principles requires us to be nothing less than counter-cultural revolutionaries. Our civic mission is to conserve what is good in our culture and in our government; not the status quo.

Our civic mission is to conserve what is good in our culture and in our government; not the status quo.

We should liken our role not to the museum conservator who “conserves” ancient relics under glass, but rather to the biologist who is active in “conserving” an endangered species. She tends to it, and learns about the conditions it needs to thrive. She educates people about the benefits of protecting it, and wins others to its cause by showing the world why it is uniquely beautiful and important. Our job is to gently, patiently expose the ways in which ideas and policies touted as “progress” have harmed our society. Then we must show how being faithful to our first principles is the surest path to flourishing.

An Infection — and the Cure

Sadly, many conservatives have been infected with the frustration and cynicism that have swept across the broader political landscape. Some have resorted to a snarky tone. Others have simply retreated from public discourse and the ballot box, leaving us to be governed by those who have little regard for America’s foundational values.

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This infection of modern conservatism with bitterness and frustration has weakened our influence by masking the essence of our worldview. Poorly-communicated conservatism just looks like a selfish desire for lower taxes and a lack of care for those who want “help” from the government.

The antidote to our infection is a shot of fresh understanding of what conservatism really is and why it matters. Conservatism represents a commitment to truth and the universal moral law. A commitment to protecting freedom not merely because we want to be “left alone,” but because liberty is the condition most conducive to virtue. It represents a commitment to the rule of law — the written Constitution and statutes that comport with it — which no president, Congress, or court may transcend.

We must engage our family, friends, neighbors, even our political opponents, in winsome, meaningful discussion about issues. We should start every policy discussion with a basic question: what is the proper role of government in our society? Is it to be the provider of all the goods and services we need and want? And if so, then what is to become of the family, the church, the charitable organization, or the God-fearing, self-governing individual?

We should start every policy discussion with a basic question: what is the proper role of government in our society? Is it to be the provider of all the goods and services we need and want?

We must help our neighbors to see that we oppose big government welfare programs not because we don’t care for the sick or the needy, but precisely because we do care for them, and believe that local, holistic, human caring is best for human needs. We have to be clear that our pro-life stance is rooted in our total conviction that every single human being, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or disability, is inherently valuable and never beyond hope.

Engaging the Culture, Starting at Home

Finally, today’s conservative can’t be content to work in the policy arena alone. We must engage in our culture with the goal of transformation. As parents, we need to help our children analyze the junk messaging that floods their senses at every turn. We need to teach them that while “following your heart” sounds nice in fairy tales, doing what is right is the better rule. Let’s help them notice that the entertainment industry paints a picture of a life that is all about sex. And then let’s open their eyes to the beauty of a life filled with noble purpose.

When people ask me “what’s next for today’s conservative?” I call them to join me in this two-front revolution. Let’s transform our culture and reform our government by raising our standards for both. Let’s help our frustrated, polarized nation to not only look forward, but to look up.

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