by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Over the 20th century, progressives erected a system and culture where the government in Washington is the agency of first and last resort for all of our problems. When government is expected to say yes to everything, electing the Party of No makes as much sense as hiring a priest to run a brothel.
So what is the answer? Many conservatives argue that what the GOP needs to do is start saying “yes” to things. This was the idea behind George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism. Americans want an activist government, so conservatives should find things they can be activist about, too. If the government is going to meddle, it might as well meddle in conservative ways.
While individual policies may be advisable, as a general proposition I think this is the wrong way to go. Not only does this do violence to the constitutional order conservatives are supposed to conserve, it forever puts the Right in a bidding war with the Left about what government can and should do. Conservatives will lose that fight — and possibly their souls in the process.
What’s the alternative? Well, if the game is rigged against you, continuing to play the game is the very definition of idiocy. You have to change the rules.
My own view is that conservatives should recommit themselves to federalism and states’ rights. The party of Lincoln should protect core civil rights, but beyond that, states and localities should be given as much freedom as they can handle. If California wants to become Sweden with better weather, let it. If Texas wants to become Singapore on the Rio Grande, great, go for it. And the same principle goes for cities and towns within those states.