Something is deficient, unfocused, misunderstood, poorly stated, ineffective about conservatism.
You are not the only person to make such observations, and they do reflect a set of very real problems for conservatives.
There are several related issues involved here, and I have not time to explore all of these issues in this space. But please allow me to touch on a few and let you and others respond.
To begin with, I do not believe that the problem is "conservatism", by which I mean the philosophy of governance that it represents.
I believe that philosophy to be a valid one, informed as it is by a core set of principles, including: the primacy of the individual; the existence of organic, inalienable human rights whether derived from God or from man's nature - the essential of these rights being life, liberty, property, and self-defense; the necessity of representative government, but one limited to the purposes of protecting and promoting individual liberty, specifically by providing for a defined national government structure whose powers are both limited and enumerated so as to promote the rule of law, and provide for national defense, border security, and open commerce. It's all there, in our Constitution.
But as conservatives we do face some vexing problems. There has been a persistent difficulty with respect to the manner in which our philosophy has been presented and explained by its advocates. Part of that difficulty comes with having to promote what is essentially a negative proposition: favoring limits and restrictions on government power, and having to do so in the face of a population that in the course of human endeavor frequently agitates and advocates for more government power to solve problems.
In the political realm it is always easier to promote more, rather than less. It is more availing for the ambitious to promote ever more plans and schemes to "solve" problems, especially when the costs are spread among the broad populace, while the benefits accrue to highly focused and motivated groups. James Madison touched upon this in Federalist #10, specifically, in the dangers of "faction", the cure for which was in his eyes a Federal Republican system of government in which groups might voluntarily associate in independently-governed localities (states, districts and counties) and thus atomize and repress the worst effects of factious behavior.
During the past 100 years, Progressives have manipulated and even manufactured group grievances toward the end of nationalizing every concern, creating effective and powerful constituencies for ever greater centralized government control and direction of commerce, land use, labor, welfare, education, and health.
Once that particular genie is out of the bottle, it is extremely hard to stuff it back in. But if we are to be effective conservatives, we need to try. And that means having to explain first principles and also having to make an effective case for them.
As David Horowitz recently noted1
, Progressives have many natural advantages over conservatives. Anyone who pays attention to politics can see that when Democrats attack, they speak from the same text, and when they vote, they march in lockstep.
If one Democrat says the wealthy must pay their “fair share,” all Democrats do — regardless of the merits of the charge. If their leaders say Republicans want
to shut down the government in order to deny Americans affordable care, the rest of the party will follow their lead — whether the claim is true or not.
When a key program like Obamacare is the issue, not only do Democrats back it with one voice, but every player on the political left — journalists, professors,
talk-show hosts, union heads, MoveOn radicals, and Occupy anarchists — falls into line and promotes it with virtually identical words. They act in “solidarity” in
fair political weather and foul, and they do it even for a program like Obamacare, which (as some of them must surely see) is ill-conceived, falsely presented,
incompetently executed, and fiscally unsustainable.
When the voices of the Left all come together, the amplification is stupefying. The result is that a morally bankrupt, politically tyrannical, economically
destructive party is able to set the course of an entire nation and put it on the road to disaster.
Republicans, in contrast, speak with multiple voices, and in words that often have no relation to each other.... These contending party voices are multiplied by
conservative talking heads in the nation’s media who march to their own political drums. The result is a cacophony of talking points, which in the end point
nowhere. Because Republicans speak with many voices, their message is often difficult, if not impossible, to make out.
What can bring us together as conservatives, Horowitz says, is "the power of a unifying idea", and that idea is Freedom.
I agree. But we must develop the language with which to promote it and propose to join with those who may not agree with us in all matters - even with some on the Left - in pursuit of a common goal of leading the country away from the disastrous road we are so evidently traveling, and back toward the sound, defensible principles on which it was founded.1 http://www.nationalreview.com/article/362992/uniting-right-david-horowitz