Hey Conservatives, the Time for Pledges Is Over

This morning, Erick Erickson at RedState issued a much needed salvo against the latest wave of ‘this-time-we-really-mean-it” pledges to cut spending. He focused his ire on the many DC-based institutions and individuals who are peddling this new magic elixir, but I think the problem actually goes much deeper than that. Of course, he is already experiencing significant blowback and complaints. And, also, of course, Erickson is being urged to ‘be reasonable.’ That is always the last line of defense for those without the stomach for a fight.

I stand with Erickson on this one; the time for pledges is over.

For the past several decades we’ve had pledges, commitments, frameworks, understandings, ‘down-payments’ on reform and countless ‘baby-steps’ towards fiscal sanity. And, yet, here we are on the edge of an existential crisis. In addition to a looming fiscal collapse, our government has taken over auto companies, bailed out Wall Street banks, set in motion a government take-over of health care and so overburdened the economy with regulatory red tape that the private sector job engine is permanently stalled.

All these pledges have gotten us what, exactly?

This raises a question that has puzzled me for the last few years. What has the conservative movement been good for?

In the two decades or so that I’ve been in the policy and political world, I’ve seen an explosion of conservative organizations. The DC area is littered with center-right think tanks, policy shops and activist organizations. There are national organizations, and groups organized around individual issues, like education reform or energy policy. (Hell, there are dozens of organizations alone focused solely on education reform.) Virtually every state now has its own free-market think tank and, more than a few have several. In just the past couple of decades, hundred of millions of dollars have been showered on these groups to promote conservative principles.

And yet, our country has never been closer to devolving into a quasi-European socialist state. Or, perhaps more precisely, a quasi-European corporatist state, where Big Government, Big Business and Big Labor get together to carve up the economic pie. What the hell happened?

Remember, when the Reagan Revolution swept the country, the vast majority of today’s conservative and libertarian institutions didn’t exist. Reagan rode the wave of an organic ‘taxpayer-revolt’ that sprang from a fed-up public, not a fattened-up ‘conservative movement.’ Today, a similar dynamic is building across the country. I pray the ‘movement’ doesn’t stifle it. (Many of these individual organizations do glorious work. I’m not trying to single out any particular institutions, just wondering how the movement as a whole could have failed so spectacularly, given all its built-in advantages.)

Since Reagan left office, conservatives built institutions, an infrastructure and even raised the financial resources necessary to continue to reverse the statist course, yet the Progressives, chock-a-block full of long-discredited ideas, carried the day. How did that happen?

So, hell yes, the time for pledges is over.

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