Fred Thompson’s op-ed in this morning’s WSJ is just what conservatives need to hear at exactly the right time. Here’s one of Sen. Thompson’s reminders as to what’s possible when conservatives stick with their first principles:

The power of conservative principles is borne out in the most strong, prosperous and free country in the history of the world. In the U.S., basic constitutional government has been preserved, foreign tyrannies have been defeated, our failed welfare system was reformed, and the confiscatory income tax rates of a few decades ago have been substantially reduced. This may be why the party where most conservatives reside, the Republican Party, has won seven of the last 10 presidential elections.

Americans haven’t tired of having common sense applied to our nation’s most troubling problems. Instead, Americans have recognized that conservative principles haven’t been applied nearly often enough. I suspect that Americans have felt let down that today’s ‘conservatism’ isn’t Reaganite conservatism.

Yet there is still a way to revive the conservative cause. Doing so will require avoiding the traps of pessimism or election-year quick fixes. Conservatives need to stand back for a moment and think about our philosophical first principles.

Conservatives value the lessons of history and respect faith and tradition. They are skeptical of mass movements, perfect solutions and what often passes for “progress.” At the same time, they recognize that change is inevitable. They also know that while man is prone to err, he is capable of great things and is meant to be free in an unfettered market of ideas, not subjugated by a too-powerful government.

It’s great having spokesmen like Sen. Thompson making the case for conservatism but that isn’t enough. What’s needed are an army of spokespeople who can make conservatism’s arguments in whatever setting they find themselves in. Part of what’s necessary is to have a bold attitude. Something else that’s necessary is that these ambassadors should make their arguments personal. If we explain why we hold conservatism’s first principles dear, we’re doing well. If we’re able to explain those first principles on a personal level, we’re doing better.

I’d argue that movement conservatives are ready to start another movement. It isn’t that there aren’t willing foot soldiers for the conservative cause; it’s that we haven’t seen enough conservative standardbearers to follow. When Rush has talked about the RNC’s fundraising woes, his bromide is always the same: Start acting like conservatives and the money will come flooding in like it did in the not-so-distant past.

Conservatives should stay true to their principles and remember:

  • Congress cannot repeal the laws of economics. There are no short-term fixes without longer term consequences.
  • In a free and dynamic country with social mobility, there will be great opportunity but also economic disparity, especially if the country has liberal immigration policies and a high divorce rate.
  • An education system cannot overcome the breakdown of the family, and the social fabric that surrounds children daily.
  • Free markets, not an expanding and more powerful government, are the solution to today’s problems. Many of these problems, such as health-care costs, energy dependency and the subprime mortgage crisis, were caused in large part by government policies.

At its best, conservatism’s first principles are so true that they can’t be argued against. The only way they’re defeated is if they’re abandoned on the battlefield of ideas. That isn’t defeat, though. That’s surrender. That isn’t something that I’m willing to do.

Isn’t it time that conservatives pledged that they’d fight the good fight under all circumstances? Isn’t it time that conservatives pledged to rebuild their state parties from the ground up, thereby ensuring that the Republicans we send to Washington are solid conservatives?

Isn’t it time we built our own movement?

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

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