Words. . .they’re the stock in trade of any writer. Yet they do not come easy at moments like this. I spent Tuesday night sitting in the local GOP Election Headquarters, screens all around me–watching the results come in.
Admittedly, the results were anything but what I had hoped for. And as I went on-line, the emotion–yes, even the despair was palpable. We had given years of our lives–only to see the election go sideways before our very eyes. The idea of President Obama as a four-year lame duck. . .but nothing I saw discouraged me as much as the sight of many of my fellow conservatives giving up in the face of defeat. It was over. As a movement, we were over. In the words of Thomas Paine, “‘Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country.”
I won’t pretend that I didn’t experience the same emotions. I did. But we cannot allow ourselves to give up. Not now. Look back over the last four years–what did we know about politics in 2008? Most of us, precious little. And yet we rose in defense of our country and swept to victory in the mid-term elections of 2010. Given the early flush of that success, perhaps we expected too much. Did we honestly believe that we could completely reverse, in four years, a progressive tide building for the last century? I know many who did, yet such a belief, on the naked face of it, defies Reason.
This will be a long fight, and we must ready ourselves for it. Gone is the first flare of glory, gone the swelling passion that carried us to victory in those early days. We must shed ourselves of this slavery to the four-year cycle of a presidential election. Our salvation will not come from such a quarter. No, this is the long game–and by all odds, we will not see the end of it in our lifetimes.
Our failure was not essentially the failure of a candidate. It was not the “fault” of the TEA Party, or of social conservatism, as some have asserted in the hours since. We were a volunteer army in 2010–raw, inexperienced, and successful largely because we had the advantage of surprise. In short, they never saw us coming. This time. . .they did. And enthusiasm–passion–will no longer carry the day. If we discard these unsettled passions for the encumbrances that they are–and replace them with a principled, cold-eyed realism of what it will take to accomplish our goals, we stand a chance of winning in the end.
And people ask “How?” If we could not bring affect change in 2012, how will we ever? And I answer with an old proverb, “If every man swept his own doorstep, the whole world would be clean.” On Tuesday night, the TEA Party saw a massive victory. . .in my county. Due to the efforts of a dedicated, weary core of activists every conservative candidate and ballot measure we had campaigned for won. . .within the confines of our influence. If there had been such a group in every county across the face of our United States–I leave you to draw your own conclusions as to the alternate outcomes that could have resulted.
Establishing such a groundswell is not an easy process–not something that can be accomplished in the space of a few years. It is not the progeny of “events” and emotional “rallies”, where like religious “revival” meetings of old, decisions made are discarded soon after leaving the sound of the speaker’s voice. No, you cannot rally people to “defend the Constitution” unless you have laid the groundwork of educating them on why the Constitution is even worth defending. Nowhere is this more true than when I look at my own generation. Our society is beginning to lose its grasp on freedom–beginning to place a premium on the security of a “protective” government vs. personal liberty. If we cannot recover the next generation, we will go the way of Europe.
And that is, in itself, only the beginning. And we must ask ourselves–were we in this for a marathon. . .or a sprint? The progressive movement is only approaching their goals at the end of a hundred-year marathon, and a brief, winded sprint to the finish line will not be sufficient to overcome that, whatever we may have thought at the beginning. To borrow once again from Thomas Paine in his aptly titled pamphlet, An American Crisis: “Wisdom is not the purchase of a day, and it is no wonder that we should err at the first setting off.”
No wonder, but it is an error we must correct now. We cannot retreat, we cannot stand down, for such choices are only resultant in our own destruction. Hold fast, my friends, hold fast–for while twilight may be upon us, the sun has not yet set over the United States of America. Let us work while it is yet day. Tuesday night was only a defeat of conservatism if we allow it to become one. And I swear by God above that I will not allow myself to despair. This is not the end. Not on my watch.
And I ask that you would join with me. In 2010, we established our beachhead on the shores of progressivism, and they have not succeeded in throwing us back into the sea. It’s time to form up. Close ranks. Keep moving. Let’s get off this beach!