What Should a New Conservative Movement Look Like?

Riley Compton

Riley Compton

Riley Compton is currently a student at the Pennsylvania State University studying Political Science and Economics. Riley's expertise is in Republican politics and conservative policy, writing from his independent reading as well as his experience in working at the Republican Party of Pennsylvania and for many campaigns, including Senator Marco Rubio's campaign for the President of the United States.
Riley Compton

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Following the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for President of the United States and the rebuke of conservative leaders like Speaker Paul Ryan, Senator Marco Rubio, Governor Nikki Haley, and Senator Ted Cruz, the conservative movement is on life support. Fighting the stigmas of selfishness, bigotry, misogyny, and racism has been an everyday and every-election struggle for the conservative movement since the late 1960’s, and any progress gained on those fronts, however marginal, has been reset by the candidacy and success of a man whose comments on women are atrocious, implications about a Latino judge racist, and policy prescriptions (namely the sweeping ban on Muslim immigration) xenophobic. The proposition posed to the 60% of the Republican Party who did not vote for Trump, the conservative activists who left the Party in name but not in ideology, and millennial Republicans who will inherit the anemic movement as the alt-right ages and is purged from the voting books, is whether we pull the plug on the current movement and start anew with fresh leaders, fresh ideas, and a fresh coalition, or we resurrect and modernize the old coalition, entrusting leaders like Paul Ryan & Marco Rubio who articulate conservative values like few other, but already saw defeat from the authoritarian Trump movement.

What should a new conservative movement look like should we choose to start over? We must begin with ideas that attack the negative perceptions of the old movement. We must articulate how the free market has and will raise people out of poverty and increase the standard of living for everyone, not just the rich. We must articulate how a focus on a choice in education will yield better opportunities for children living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, creating futures that would’ve otherwise not been realized. We must articulate how the second amendment will save lives, black lives and white lives alike, when not encumbered. We must be compassionate in our policies, yet dispassionate in our analysis. To us, both intentions and results must matter. The message needs to be organized, consistent, and liberty-focused.

As the Democrats continue to sprint to the left and the Alt-right steers to an authoritarian-right position, the only message not being espoused is a message of liberty. An opportunity arises to solidify a new coalition – one of moderates and liberty-minded people – that combines groups of people like classical liberals, those who are fiscal conservatives and social liberals/libertarians who have been left out of two-party system in the 20th and 21st centuries, and “Rational Right,” the conservatives who have appeal outside of factions of the far right. The majority of the current independent voting bloc is made up of these groups and that proportion should rise as the dominating faction of the two major parties leave them behind in a search for extremism. The aforementioned coalition can only be formed if the conservative movement begins to care about optics. Voters do not want to be attached to a movement or a party that appears backwards or discriminatory or selfish. The left has done a masterful job as painting conservatives as such by using conservative policies against us and lying about our intentions. A new conservative movement must be more disciplined on message if we want to be successful.

Our message should be one of unity, liberty, and decentralization. But, the area where conservatives could make the most headway with coalition-building is in anti-poverty measures. Championing school choice to increase educational opportunities for poor and predominately minority children and families directly attacks the view of conservatives as only caring about the rich and the white. Changing welfare into a non-specific based stipend disseminated only on necessity and only available temporarily empowers the poor to make their own decisions with the aid given to them instead of piecemeal grants with arbitrary restrictions attached, while simultaneously fighting one of the main causes of poverty, out of wedlock birth, by making teenage pregnancy livable but uncomfortable. Cutting the payroll tax rather than increasing the minimum wage to increase incomes of the poor without taking away job prospects. Mandatory saving and the transitioning into of Social Security into private plans allows the older generations to make their own decisions with their own money, rather than the government voodoo which will bankrupt a program many millions of Americans rely on.

Because of the success of the left in labeling conservatives, and the validation of that caricature by Donald Trump, the way to reclaim and rebuild the conservative movement is by a message with explicit, benevolent intentions coupled with a pro-liberty, pro-growth, but most importantly anti-poverty platform. The voting bloc for such a message exists as does the successful track record of conservative policies and a laundry-list of failed liberal policies in the cities most plagued by poverty. We must capture hearts and maintain minds all while rejecting the bromides and slander of the left. We have the message, we have the policies, and all we need is new generation of leaders. Success of a new conservative movement in the wake of Mr. Trump is imperative for the future of a nation based on free markets, free minds, and free people. It’s time to pull the plug and start anew so that conservative and constitutional principles will continue to live on. Let the rebuilding begin.