Conservatives blame their 2012 electoral loss on poor “messaging” and “ground game” while also maintaining that they must not abandon their core principles. Unfortunately, they are, again, self-deluded, because it is their driving principle that makes their ideology irrelevant to problems in the real world. Their driving principle, the pursuit “smaller government,” is also their ideology’s fatal flaw.
Why? Because using the requirement of “smaller government” as a litmus test to all policy-making ensures that today’s conservatives will opt for the wrong policies virtually always, especially in the areas of environmental protection and social safety nets. Oddly, the main instance in which today's conservatives choose to violate the litmus test of “smaller government” is when it comes to war; they are willing to cast their “smaller government” ideology aside when a war beckons. They call it “national security.”
Why does the core belief in “smaller government” guarantee wrong policies for the environment and social safety nets? For the simple reason that the interventions required to address, for example, environmental problems such as deforestation, air and water pollution, and climate change, require the government to do something. It has to regulate or tax in order to discourage carbon emission and other pollution. (The private sector will not do this in any meaningful way on its own.) When the government does a new thing, it becomes more powerful, and, in a way, bigger. Even if it does not mean spending, it is interfering in our lives. That violates today's conservatives' most precious principle.
The ideological conservatives cannot allow that. But they also cannot admit that they are neglecting a problem that can devastate our country. So, the only thing left to them is to pretend that the problem does not exist. “Global warming is a hoax.” "Taxes must always go down and never up." Therefore, lopsided income distribution is ok; it’s a result of the free market. "The federal government cannot spend more on safety nets." Therefore, we should provide only vouchers to people on Medicare and privatize Social Security. In other words, take the security and peace of mind out of these programs. And so it goes.
This way of thinking is commonplace and is obstructing solutions to our nation’s problems. There needs to be more voices to expose this fundamental flaw in the way today’s conservatism operates. If not, our problems will continue to gain ground despite the best intentions of progressives.