Monday, January 04, 2016

Guest Column: 7 Rules for Conservatives

By Lowman S. Henry

If the Left had a religion (which of course they don't), their Bible would be a book by tactical guru Saul Alinsky entitled "Rules for Radicals." The original "community organizer," Alinsky's seminal work has been the "how to" guide for the extreme Left for several generations.

Using Alinsky's rules, liberals (now re-branded progressives) have generally out-maneuvered conservatives on the ideological battlefield. After an extended period of time conservatives have somewhat caught onto the Left's tactics, but still it would be helpful for the Right to have its own set of rules. This is difficult because unlike the Left, which moves in politically correct lockstep, conservatives actually think for themselves making unity more difficult. But, herewith I am willing to offer some suggested Rules for Conservatives:

Rule # 7: Talk about why we can win, not why we can't. As the current presidential campaign has unfolded conservatives have fallen into the mainstream media trap of talking about why their candidates cannot win. Trump can't win because he has a big mouth. Rubio can't win because he isn't sufficiently conservative. Cruz can't win because he is too conservative. Rather than focus on why each potential candidate can't win, talk about why he or she can win.

Rule # 6: Obey the "Buckley Rule." William F. Buckley, one of the founding fathers of modern day conservatism back in 1964 observed that we should support "the rightward most viable candidate." Conservatives love to stand on principle, and while we should never abandon our core beliefs, we must also take electability into account when deciding which candidate to support.

Rule # 5: Don't fight over minor policy differences. Especially in crowded primary fights candidates and their supporters tend to fixate on even the tiniest differences in policy positions. This causes voters' eyes to glaze over and worse obstructs their view of the big picture. Yes, at some point those minor differences will become important. But not until you actually win the election and are in a position of power.

Rule # 4: Accept partial victories. We all have a policy end game. But the political process generally unfolds in small steps not in big, bold moves. The Left understands this and is willing to accept a small victory then come back and fight for more. Conservatives demand all or nothing, and all too often end up with nothing. Remember, change is a marathon, not a sprint.

Rule # 3: Don't hold grudges. The old saying "friends are temporary, but enemies are forever" often applies to conservatives. Your competitor in this election cycle or on one policy fight just might be your ally in the next. Be willing to forgive because there aren't enough of us to be divided by past grievances.

Rule # 2: Be a happy warrior. Even when almost felled by a would-be assassin's bullet Ronald Reagan joked with doctors on his way into the operating room. We are not the dour old Left that sits around worried about the world vaporizing because of climate change. We live in the greatest nation known to man with freedoms granted to us by our Creator. This is a cause for celebration and joy. Act accordingly.

Rule # 1: Never give up. Yes, some of our candidates will lose and the Left will win more than their share of policy battles. But there is always another election and there will inevitably be a new policy battle. Ronald Reagan lost a string of early primaries in 1980 and was given up for politically dead. But he pushed through the defeats, eventually winning enough delegates to claim the nomination and ultimately the presidency.  Ronald Reagan never gave up, and neither should we.

I’m sure you could probably add a few more rules of you own to this list, but as a new and pivotal year in American history is about to unfold we need to keep our goals in mind, focus on what is most important, and fight hard for freedom. After all, this gift called America is now in our possession and it is our duty to preserve, protect and defend what Abraham Lincoln called "the last best hope" of man on Earth.

Lowman S. Henry is chairman and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research in Harrisburg, and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His email address is

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