The core principles of modern conservatism, contrary to what critics allege, are not grounded in religion or ideology. They are grounded in simple common sense. Budgets should be balanced. High taxes distort behavior. Welfare erodes the human spirit. Nations should be self-reliant. The validity of these values is amply demonstrated by experience, across time and culture.
As support for the two major political parties has realigned over the last two generations, conservatism has become synonymous with the GOP. There aren’t any real conservatives in the Democratic Party anymore, just as there aren’t any rappers who claim to be Republicans. But there are many different factions within conservative ranks, from libertarians to supply-siders to evangelicals, and each has a slightly different take on how goals should be prioritized.
Given the surge in support for the GOP at the state level, 2016 should be a good year for the Republican presidential ticket. Voters want a change, and Hillary Clinton isn’t likely to answer the mail. But that depends on the GOP appealing to independents in the middle of the political spectrum, since they will determine which party ultimately occupies the White House. Clinton isn’t as good a campaigner as her husband Bill, but she knows how to appeal to the people in the center.
It isn’t clear that some factions within the GOP do. If Republicans want to win the White House in 2016, they need to stick with the core of their message and not get diverted by arcane issues that can be used against them. The ridiculous campaign to kill the U.S. Export-Import Bank is a good example of how some conservatives waste scarce political capital on issues that have no bearing on the nation’s future, while playing into the hands of their Democratic opponents.
All Ex-Im does is help companies to export U.S.-made goods. It doesn’t hand out subsidies, it doesn’t use taxpayer funds, it doesn’t compete with the private sector and it doesn’t expose the government to significant risk. Virtually everything its right-wing critics allege about the bank is untrue, but they don’t seem to care. They also don’t seem to care about the thousands of small businesses that rely on its credit facilities, or about what will happen to the big companies that have to compete against foreign companies receiving support from their own governments.
Basically, Ex-Im critics want to kill off the agency to prove they can do it, as if that somehow benefits the conservative cause or the nation. All it will really do is wipe out thousands of jobs while alienating the kinds of voters who are natural allies of the GOP. Perhaps that is why dozens of Republicans in the House are co-sponsoring a bill to reauthorize the bank’s activities for another five years. They understand that if businesses in a state like Texas are the biggest users of Ex-Im services, that’s a tip-off it’s not some sort of liberal giveaway program for the 47%.
What conservatives should be asking themselves is how expending political capital on shutting down Ex-Im Bank helps them to win the White House in 2016 — or achieve any of their other goals. The answer is that it’s just another dumb detour that will allow Democrats to depict the GOP as indifferent to the interests of average voters. All the nonsense about “crony capitalism” makes the bank’s enemies sound like liberals. If conservatives are going to win the center of the political spectrum in 2016, they’ve got to avoid wasting time and energy on such irrelevant issues.
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