Rush Limbaugh fielded a phone call the other day that even he couldn’t answer.
“What’s happened to the country I live in?” asked the frustrated woman. “And what do we do now?”
The Great Rushbo was understandably flustered.
Coming up with a cure for what ails America after five years of Barack Obama and decades of bigger and stupider and meaner Big Government in D.C. is not something you can do off the top of your head.
The woman’s question reminded me of a question Newt Gingrich posed to me about five years ago.
“Mike,” he said, “how is it that our side can elect great conservatives like your father and Margaret Thatcher but then after we win those elections everything seems to fall apart?”
What Newt said about conservatives squandering their biggest victories is true. My father’s glorious conservative revolution of 1980 is largely undone today, washed away by 30 years of higher taxes, more regulations and a weak-kneed foreign policy.
Even Newt himself is an example of the problem conservatives have had in not being able to take full advantage of their greatest victories.
He was able to foment his own mini-revolution in Congress in 1994. For a while, as Republicans took control of the House for the first time since the Korean War, it looked like half a century of executive power and federal over-reach were finally going to be checked, if not rolled back.
But then Newt’s historic and inspiring conservative resurrection fizzled.
The 54 new Republican rebels who helped Newt “take over” the House, as the liberal media liked to say, forced Clinton to reform welfare and kept federal spending in check — at least until Congress let Bush II and Obama open the floodgates and drown us and our grandchildren’s grandchildren in debt.
I think I’ve figured out what the problem with conservatives is. We don’t understand the rules of the political power game. We think after we win big elections or defeat the Soviet Union, we can go home and savor our victories.
We think after we win our big fights, it’s the end of the game. Welfare reform passes — game over. Berlin Wall falls — game over. We won, you lost — game over.
But liberals and progressives understand the power game. They know it never really ends. What conservatives see as a victorious ending — the takeover of the House or the election of George W. Bush — liberals and progressives see as just the beginning.
The other side never stops fighting. When Scott Brown won that special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat in 2010, conservatives were dancing in the streets because they had won their 60th vote to stop Obamacare.
Conservatives thought Brown’s shocking win was the end and went home. The liberals knew it was just the beginning of a tough fight. What did we get in the end? Obamacare. Plus U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
If we conservatives want to win the day and prevent liberals and progressives from undermining our way of life, sinking us in a sea of debt and turning us into a socialist Banana Republic, we have to never stop fighting.
Evil never sleeps. Nor do its practitioners in Washington and in our state capitals. If we want good to triumph over evil in the long run, we have to learn to see our big victories not as the end of the fight but the beginning of the rest of the battle.