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By Cliff Kincaid

January 13, 2008

You know the political world is in turmoil when the best conservative journalist on the scene, Robert Novak, blows two big predictions in a row. Novak said Mitt Romney would win the Iowa Caucuses (Romney lost by nine points to Mike Huckabee) and that Barack Obama would beat Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire in a “blow-out” (Hillary won by a couple points). All of this goes to show that both political parties are going through a revolution of “change” that the columnists and talking heads do not yet grasp.

From my vantage point, however, it looks like both major political parties are moving to the left.

Human Events, the national conservative weekly that used to be a favorite of Ronald Reagan, is trying to be a factor. It followed Fred Thompson’s strong performance in Thursday night’s South Carolina debate by endorsing the former Tennessee senator. Thompson had attacked Huckabee during the debate as too liberal. But Huckabee got more self-described “conservative” votes than any other Republican candidate in Iowa.

Is the Human Events endorsement too little too late for Thompson? Romney’s endorsement by National Review (and his money) didn’t help him win either Iowa or New Hampshire. As we contended in a recent column, it looks like the conservative media are losing their influence.

In fact, as demonstrated by the rise of Huckabee and especially John McCain in the Republican race, conservatives in and out of the media are looking rather desperate. About a year ago, the conservative group Citizens United released a report, “He’s No Ronald Reagan: Why Conservatives Should Not Vote for John McCain.” But McCain got the votes of 30 percent of self-described conservatives in New Hampshire.

My column about Rush Limbaugh losing influence, by virtue of the fact that Huckabee overcame Limbaugh’s strident attacks and won Iowa anyway, generated some interesting comments. Here’s one from an engineer in Cincinnati that drew my serious attention and I think has a lot of wisdom in it:

“I think that rather than draw the conclusion that Rush Limbaugh is losing his influence you have to question the current state of conservative politics in America. The ideas of conservatives are rarely promoted by anyone running or holding office. I heard a speech of Fred Thompson this week and he was speaking like a conservative but these speeches are few and far between these days. We lost out big when George Bush announced he was a compassionate conservative and then started writing bills with Ted Kennedy. There is not greater evidence than the spending spree him and the Republican Congress had for this first six years of this century.

“The ideas of small government, low taxes, low regulation, and minimal intrusion in the daily lives of people are losing ground. The people in Iowa are not rejecting Rush Limbaugh because he dares to suggest that Mike Huckabee is not Ronald Reagan. They are rejecting the concepts of Ronald Reagan himself.

“We have diluted the Republican concepts of being conservative with each election. Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani. These are your electable Republicans these days. And when we settle for them we commit ourselves to a worse one with the next election.

“I contend that Mr. Reagan himself would have a tough time getting elected these days. Likewise, John F. Kennedy would have the same problem in the Democrat party. He actually summed up the conservative central theme when he said ‘And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’ A guy talking like that is not going to pass the muster in the face of government giveaway, buy the votes Democrats, these days.

“Conservatism cannot win without people understanding the concept. And the word is not getting out there. If it weren’t for the Internet this fight would already be lost.

“My point really is though that there are getting to be fewer and fewer real conservatives all the time. I am afraid that this media onslaught of misinformation is winning. The constant drumbeat of the necessity of government’s changing role I think is having an effect. More and more people are buying into the new and expanded role of government. I think that most Americans think that if an individual doesn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, go to work and support their children, that the government should step in and take over.

“Socialism has always been easy to sell because it has that ‘something for nothing’ promise. Of course, as real conservatives know, it has always failed to deliver and always will. Freedom, entrepreneurship, and motivation are destroyed and the promises can’t be delivered on.”

Since the Republican candidates profess to be Reagan conservatives, perhaps we ought to remind them of what the former president said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

How many times have you heard the current crop of candidates talk about freedom? Go to their websites and see how many times they mention the word. Are they talking about freedom? Or are they talking about what government can do?

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It may be that there are fewer conservatives these days. But it could also be that the definition of the term has changed.

Perhaps my friend in Cincinnati is correct. Perhaps Reagan couldn’t campaign and win as a Reagan Republican these days.

The conservative Heritage Foundation is running an ad campaign that asks, “What would Reagan do?” It’s a good question. It ought to be asked of the Republican candidates at the next debate.

© 2008 Cliff Kincaid - All Rights Reserved

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Cliff Kincaid, a veteran journalist and media critic, Cliff concentrated in journalism and communications at the University of Toledo, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Cliff has written or co-authored nine books on media and cultural affairs and foreign policy issues.

Cliff has appeared on Hannity & Colmes, The O’Reilly Factor, Crossfire and has been published in the Washington Post, Washington Times, Chronicles, Human Events and Insight.

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Since the Republican candidates profess to be Reagan conservatives, perhaps we ought to remind them of what the former president said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.