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Election Results, Pendulum Swings and Stalking Reagan

Before I ramble on about the national implications of Tuesday’s election, I would like to sincerely thank the citizens of District 18 for allowing me to represent them again for the next two years. It truly is an honor which I take seriously.

As I was standing in line at Skyland Elementary to vote, I took the opportunity to talk with the people around me. One gentleman, after finally realizing that I was on the ballot, looked me in the eye and said, “No offense, but I don’t like or trust politicians.” Without missing a beat, I replied, “Neither do I.”

He looked surprised as I followed up by observing that the last time the Republicans controlled Washington, we did nothing to advance a proactive conservative agenda that offered viable solutions. If we carried the day with this election, could we be trusted to act differently? He reluctantly agreed that we needed to be hopefully cautious.

Tuesday’s results should start the pendulum swinging toward a Republican president in two years. This assumes that we can find somebody who can personify and communicate a new conservative message to a rapidly changing voter base. I’m not confident that our plate of leftovers from the last election has the ability to do that.

By the time we elect a new president, Barak Obama will be 55 years old. Americans rarely elect a new president who is significantly older (more than a couple of years) than the outgoing president. In fact, it has happen four times. Harrison was 9 years older than Van Buren, Taylor was 9 years older than Polk, Buchanan was 13 years older than Pierce, and Reagan was 13 years older than Carter. Note that Harrison and Taylor died while in office. Of course, Johnson was older than Kennedy but assassinations don’t count.

Statistically speaking, this doesn’t bode well for Mitt Romney or Rick Perry. Given that the Millennial generation (80 million strong) is so large, I don’t see the country ever electing another Baby Boomer.

The pendulum has started to swing but in a different direction than before. The terms “conservative” and “liberal” are not fixed like points on a compass.  Their practical application changes along with each generation and we are witnessing that change happening now. Unfortunately, both parties continue to define their platforms with the political language of the 1960’s while an increasing number of active voters don’t even understand the terminology, much less trust it . . . or the politicians saying it.

The real failure of Barak Obama was that he recognized the need to speak a slightly different political language – at least different enough for independent voters to notice – then delivered the same old 1960’s liberal “solutions” that had grown stale with Jimmy Carter. If his solutions had matched his rhetoric, he would have shifted us to a center-left country for many years  to come.

Republicans need to consider the full ramifications of his failure – that voters don’t want just the words of change, they want a government that works, regardless of whether it is limited or big. They want competent ethical people in office who can prove that their ideology translates into viable solutions.

Conservatism isn’t just a set philosophy of limited government and individual liberty, it is a common-sense state of mind that can be applied to solving a wide variety of issues.  Republicans have been given another and maybe final chance to define conservatism for a new generation.

A final observation for the person who wants to be the next Republican nominee – quit looking over your shoulder at Reagan and look to the future. I came of age in the 1980’s and studied the conservatism of Buckley, Goldwater and Reagan. Their Cold War policies were different from that of Sen. Robert Taft who led the conservative fight against Roosevelt’s New Deal. Back in the 1950’s, Taft was voted by the Senate as one of the five greatest Senators in American history but I don’t recall Reagan ever invoking his name.

As some of us note the 25th anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall, we understand that Reagan’s legacy for us was his ability to communicate a brighter future and then deliver it. But we can’t just continue to mimic Reagan. Our times are different and we need a conservative candidate who can rise to the challenge.