A few days agothis post appeared at National Journal's The Corner talking about all kinds of excuses whey the conservatives are not going to be truly represented in this election, with McCain generally ceded the nomination with Romney's departure. James Antle talks more about the candidates and the general dearth of real conservative, viable candidates. And of course, talk radio is up in arms about McCain and the lack of a conservative candidate.
But the question for conservatives now is whether to support McCain or let a Democrat win by default because the Republicans won't turn out in numbers enough to vote against the Democrat. Of course, at times like this it would be easy to say, well we shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good and conservatives should support McCain because the alternative may be unthinkable.
Well, to a certain extent I will fall into that camp as will a number of conservatives, if for no other reason that I believe if you didn't vote in teh election you have no right to complain about the results. But by the same token, conservatives can still send a message even if they are out of power. Sure, the conservative movement has suffered a set back. But we suffered one in 1960-1964 and for nearly two decades we were a backwoods organziation that survived to come on strong with Ronald Reagan. We can come back and here is how.
1. We simply cannot cede the battle ground. On every issue, on every piece of legislation, on every policy, conservatives must stake out their position, based on conservative principals and keep talking about it, to everyone who will listen and even to those who don't. I have seen the result of failing to expound on our principals first hand--witness Maryland.
2. We must start to recruit conservatives now for the next 10 elections. Let's face it, we don't have a deep bench of conservatives at the top of the pyramid and it may take a little longer to get some there. But politics is a game of long term and if we believe our message to be the right one, and historically it is, then we can't forget to build the ranks of leaders at all levels. It is not just our "bench" of top leaders like Governors or Senators, but also the "minor leagues" of local government, state houses and state senates where future leaders are made. We also must not forget business and education.
3. Keep the idea machine going. Unlike 1964 when think tanks like the Heritage Foundation or Hoover Institution did not exist, we still have idea factories like these think tanks working. What the Stanley Kurtz argued is correct, we need to do more to get these conservative thinkers in the faculties of large scale universities and the only way to do that is to allow academics to use think tanks as a stepping off point to tenure track professorships.
4. Do not get discouraged. In every long term human endeavor, there are dark periods. This is a dark period for conservatives. That doesn't mean we are defeated, but this is a time to take a breath, take stock and make a plan.
This is not to say we should just give upon McCain, but really if conservatives want a choice in 2012, we need to have an operation running now.