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The Future of Conservatism By: FrontPage Magazine
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, December 04, 2008

The following roundtable discussion about the direction of the conservative movement took place on Saturday, November 15, during the 2008 Restoration Weekend, the annual event hosted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. -- The Editors.

Larry Greenfield:
Good morning. Welcome to our Panel on the Future of American conservatism. The Democratic Party has a game plan, an educational system that bullies conservatives and indoctrinates students to liberalism; media bias to paint conservative thought as out of the mainstream, especially on cultural issues; a revived religious Left that preaches text and tradition, not with multiple voices, but singularly from the liberal perspective; amnesty and open borders to invite in new political voters; a welfare system and dependency class to grow votes for more and more government handouts and entitlements; voting and registration fraud, including voting now by felons, ex-felons, and gerrymandered districts; law by judicial fiat; the plaintiffs bar; and unions at the government teat. Yes, the Democratic Party has a plan.

What do we as conservatives have? We have a better idea: liberty, opportunity, prosperity, security, and freedom.

Thank you, David Horowitz' Freedom Center and its incredible staff, for bringing us all together.

In my own lecturing and soon my own writing, I will lay out a conservative philosophy that, in participation with so many others, answers some basic questions. To set up the panel, I'm just going to answer questions, not the philosophy.

How do we recapture our majority and compete with that Democratic Party and all of its alliances program and master plan? How do we reach out to new voters and demographics that we are not yet reaching? How do we rebrand ourselves?

Second, how will conservatism serve America?
And, last, what is the structure of technology reaching out to youth voters and other demographics. What is the substance? What are our philosophical and policy ideas? And what is the tone? What level of conversation and charisma can we bring to compete?

To answer and address and investigate all of these questions about tone, structure, substance, philosophy, policy, what is the future of the conservative movement, we put together an all-star panel.

First up is my friend, your friend, America's leading thinker about the electorate. Michael Barone.

Michael Barone: I've been asked to talk about election data. What are the voters saying to us? And I'm tempted to quote the words of the late Morris Udall of Arizona, who finished second in a whole series of Democratic primaries in the 1976 election, and in one of the later primaries he got up hypocritically before the audience on election night, and he said, "The voters have spoken, the bastards."

In any case, let me make a couple of points here. First of all, this was a more volatile electorate than we've had in the past. Opinion changed more sharply in response to issues, in response to unforeseen events, in response to the things that candidates did.

And it's a period, between 1995 and '05, we had a period of what I call "trench warfare politics," where political behavior was very closely linked to people's moral values, and things didn't change much. The numbers were about the same in election after election because of the nexus between moral values and the vote. That changed with Hurricane Katrina, the prolonged struggle in Iraq, the performance of the Congressional Republicans, the "bridge to nowhere," Mark Foley, etc. That nexus for many voters, particularly those who had been voting Republican, snapped and we became in a period of what I called "open field politics," a period where there's a lot of volatility.

The Democrats have mostly done better in this period than the Republicans, but I would maintain that there's a wide range of possibilities and outcomes, and we could see it to some extent this year. I mean neither of the two parties nominated a candidate the way that they have in every contest since 1972 through 2004, since the emergence of the primaries, where the candidate that sweeps the primaries wins. That didn't work, and the Republican Party where John McCain got narrow pluralities but through winner-take-all rules got the majority of delegates. It didn't work in the Democratic Party, where Hillary Clinton actually won more votes and more delegates in primaries than Barack Obama did, but since her campaign somehow forgot to compete in the caucuses, she lost.

We saw shifts of opinion, three of them really favoring Republicans in the course of the campaign: the prolonged Democratic nomination fight, which set off a sort of tribal warfare in the Democratic Party; and Obama did not maximize the potential Democratic vote among some groups that didn't vote against him in the primaries, including downscale elderly and Appalachian voters.

The public appreciation, finally, of the success of the Iraq surge changed things. That changed the standing on Iraq suddenly, not nearly as negative an issue for Republicans. There was $4 a gallon gas, which basically converted people from preserve the pristine environment to nuke the caribou. (There are 377,000 caribou in Alaska, and when the environmentalists realized the global warming implications of the methane emissions from 377,000 animals perhaps they'll change their view.) And then we had the financial crisis in which McCain seemed to be behaving impulsively and ineffectively, Obama seemed to be behaving calmly. That really changed attitudes. On September 18th the lines crossed on the realclearpolitics.com average of recent polls. Obama overtook McCain, who had been ahead for two weeks, and it changes.

That’s one point: in a volatile situation votes can change in response to events.

The second point is Obama’s coalitions. Interestingly, this is a top and bottom coalition. Obama wins voters under $50,000 and over $200,000. He wins non-high school grads and people with post graduate degrees. He loses everybody in between.

That's a coalition that's got a certain amount of inherent instability into it. We heard the Democrats talking a lot about how they're going to win the white working class. They actually didn't do so well with that class.

But the one I really want to emphasize is the young, in particular because the Freedom Center has directed a lot of its activities in this direction. Young voters, 30-and-under voted 66% to 32% for Barack Obama. Now, there wasn't it seems as huge an increase in young voting as may have been expected.

I think it was confined in large parts to university towns and counties that have major universities – you see the increased vote for Obama, as opposed to previous Democrats in affluent suburban areas.

People 30-and-over voted for Obama by a margin of 50-to-49. Retrospectively, I suggest that the McCain campaign's winning strategy would have been to pass a constitutional amendment raising the voting age to 35.

Now, those figures I think should not be regarded as necessarily stable. Obama could improve on them, but he also faces very high expectations. As he said on June 3rd when he clinched the last Democratic primary, "This is the moment when the planet begins to heal and the seas stop rising."

Now, earlier successful politicians never made such promises, like King Canute, and actually refrained from talking about stopping the seas from rising. Obama has promised a lot, and I think it's not clear that he's going to be able to succeed in this. He has talked about how he's going to produce great change, and yet as we see the kind of people he is bringing to Washington, we see them trooping in there, veterans of the Clinton administration, and so forth.

And that leads me to my third point: how conservatives can win over the young and still maintain the coalition they had.

McCain after all did get 46% of the vote. This is not a total collapse. There are still a lot of voters that are anchored to either of the two parties by their moral values, although the nexus was broken for many.

And the problem that the conservative coalition faces is in one way you can see from two exit poll numbers. White evangelical Protestants continue to be very heavily Republican. McCain got 74% of their votes, that's down from 79%, but the religious Left talked about much by Jim Wallace and other Democrats, is still a minor factor in the electorate. Any successful Republican or conservative coalition needs to have voters like that as a part.

The other is what is the one demographic group in which McCain did better than Bush in '04? Gays and lesbians, up from 24% to 27%, a contrary trend. Not a big difference, not a huge demographic – they’re only 4% of the electorate – but it's an interesting number.

And it gets me to my final point, which is how do you relate to these younger voters. And I think the answer is in the word "choices." I mean this is a generation, as compared to when I was, you know, if you go back to the 1950s and '60s and that sort of conformist society that was a top-down society.

If you wanted to join the Elvis Presley fan club you had to sign-up with the official fan club, and you get their materials, and you could post them, you know, scotch tape them on your bedroom wall and so forth. If you listened to the music, you listen to the Top 40, and if a song wasn't on the top 40 you'd never hear it.

This is a different generation. As Morley Winograd and Michael Heiss, two Democrats, make the point in their book Millennial Makeover, it's a generation that's open to big government programs, but it's also a generation that wants choices. They've got their own MySpace page. They don't send into the centralized fan club to get their materials; they construct their own website. They don't just listen to the Top 40, they've got their mix of music varieties on their own iPods.

These are people that have choices, and I think that there's a tension between this desire for choices and some of the things that we've seen rolling out from the Obama campaign and transition team. We've got them, you know, they're promising to increase taxes which reduces your choices of what to do with your money. They're talking about a national health care, pushing towards a single national health insurance scheme, which reduces choices.

The Democrats have promised to put in a card check bill which will abolish secret ballots in elections. That's an 80% unpopular bill. It has gotten very little air. Mainstream media won't talk about it because it doesn't want to hurt Democrats. But that is something that very much goes against the spirit of this younger generation of voters.

You've got the General Motors bailout. Some on the panel may disagree, but it seems to me, and I've got an article this morning in Real Clear Politics on the topic, that he bailout of the big three automakers is not about creating a future; it's about freezing in place the past. Aside from all the policy arguments on it and so forth, it's really out of line with what I think that younger voters want.

Now, I hear some conservatives say, "We just have to shout louder our principles, and summon the memory of Ronald Reagan." I think that's insufficient. I think conservatives have to figure out how to frame their views on cultural issues, economic issues, and defense issues as a matter of choices. And giving Americans choices so that they can together build the kind of country they want, rather than having a one-size-fits-all model imposed from top to bottom.

Thank you.

Larry Greenfield: Our second speaker, U.S. Representative Ed Royce is serving his eighth term in Congress, representing Southern California's 40th District.

Rep. Ed Royce: Well, first, let me say that the phenomenon we saw in this election with the youth being mobilized by wireless communication and these networks, this is not the first time it happened. It happened in South Korea in the last election cycle, prior to this one. And the Left there used Plato's old dictum: What's important is who teaches the youth in society, and what you teach them.

The hard Left had taught the youth in Korea that if they could elect someone like President Roh, someone who would go out and give a lot of foreign aid to North Korea, they could actually make the North Koreans love them. And the youth did organize, went to the streets, had an upset victory – but the consequences of the policies put in place by President Roh were such a shock to Koreans that the Grand National Party came roaring back in the following election.

Because just as Barack Obama has promised to double foreign aid, and double the support to the UN. The presumption that this is how we're going to make the world like us. The prescriptions that President Roh tried fell flat on North Korea, because there was a reality out there irrespective of the positions of Leftist politicians.

And I thought I'd just start with the observation that the priority for the United States going forward has to be the security of the United States, frankly, the security of our allies, the securities of those involved in Western Civilization. We're all a product of the Enlightenment, and it is that which is most under attack.

I say that because as Ranking Member on the International Terrorism Subcommittee, I'll just share with you the last audiotape that we played from Osama bin Laden, in which he says the operations are underway to carry out an attack against the United States. And he offers a truce to us, just as he did before the 7-7 terror attacks, when he offered a truce to Europe and England.

And then on the tape, on comes Adam Gadhan, who is from my District in Garden Grove. And this is a young man who converted to radical Islam, and he's now the spokesman in English for al-Qaeda. Then al-Zawahiri says, "Now we have fulfilled all the requirements of Islamic law. Osama has given you many warnings, he's offered you a truce, and he's given you the chance to convert in America to Islam. Now, we're justified in attacking you."

And the reality is that during that same span of time, Osama bin Laden went out and got a second fatwa. If you remember, before 9/11 he got a fatwa that said, "You could attack civilians." And this time he got a fatwa that said, "You can kill 10 million Americans in a nuclear attack."

Now, we know the reality of where he's going in terms of his efforts to obtain WMD, and his focus on putting cells into the United States. We have knocked down 13 Islamic cells in the U.S. effectively. And this is the reality of where we are in the world, and we have effectively stopped attacks in Israel and effectively stopped most of the attacks in Britain through the use of our electronic surveillance and other methodologies like this.

Now, we have a President-elect who has a very different priority going forward. And those priorities are to disband these types of interceptions that we have collected of people, for example, when al-Qaeda makes a phone call into the United States to contact one of their agents here, that becomes a big civil rights issue to the Left. Undercutting that surveillance, undercutting the interrogations that have proved successful, closing Guantanamo Bay, allowing key provisions of the Patriot Act to expire when next summer they come up before the Congress – these are all priorities going forward.

And those priorities will have very real consequences out in the real world. And I point out, you know, that this week there's a front page story in The Washington Post saying that a key priority for the new administration is going to be closing Guantanamo Bay.

The same week there's a story in the New York Times about what to do about the 250 people there, because 30 of the people we've already released have turned back-up on the battlefield. Because we take the biometrics now, we know that one of these individuals was caught trying to reenter the United States after he was released from Guantanamo Bay, and subsequently sent back to Jordon, where he managed to blow himself up in a suicide bombing. And so we have the practical consequences of dealing with 250 people, of which the New York Times says, "these individuals, many of them were involved in close connections with the leadership of al-Qaeda and in other terrorist organizations."

And it makes a point that we can return them to Yemen, but Yemen releases them. As you know, the Left does not return them to any other society that is going to interrogate them, using interrogation methods stronger than what the Left will impose when they come into governance here.

And so you have a situation where the ACLU has already assembled a proposal, urging Obama to issue three executive orders on his first day on the job. Now, the first is going to be close Guantanamo Bay. The second is prohibiting abuse in CIA interrogations. And the third is end the practice of sending detainees to countries that conduct harsher interrogations than those allowable under U.S. law.

Who will enforce these? Obama Attorney General Eric Holder. He's the one that, if you remember, let the Marc Rich pardon go through on the eleventh hour in the Clinton Administration. He said, "Our needlessly abusive and unlawful practices in the war on terror have diminished our standing in the world."

Now, as we go forward, and John Conyers, of course, is calling for investigations of government officials who are involved in the decisions to use this electronic surveillance, and the ACLU wants the legal vault opened in terms of all the information that we've used.

The one advantage we had was the technological advantage in the war on terror. The other, as the 9/11 Commission pointed out to us, is the fact that 15 of those 19 hijackers came into this country illegally and could have been detained in that process. And as they laid out the report on how to prevent another 9/11 their argument is border security is now national security, it is time to secure the borders.

In this last election the exit polls showed that 21% of the electorate wanted amnesty. Now, we were a little disadvantaged in this election because of the positions that President Bush had taken, and frankly the positions John McCain had taken. But people increasingly know that when you have a 9/11 Commission that gives you a report that argues for border security, and you've had a guy, like Mahmud Abouhalima, who was given amnesty and planned the first World Trade Center bombing and used that amnesty in order to get on a plane and go to Pakistan and get the training and explosives that he needed. And then come back here because he had managed to get that amnesty and conduct the first attack on those World Trade Center, that maybe it's not a good idea when you don't know who is in the country to give a blanket amnesty.

But we're going against the interest of this electorate, and I think it's going to become very clear to people, and just as disillusioned as the South Koreans were in the fact that when all that foreign aid went over to North Korea, and the result was not a change in the relationship, but instead an expectation of more from the enemies of South Korea.

Just as they turned on their leftist government, and in large numbers brought the Grand National Party back into power in Korea, I really think there's going to be a reevaluation by this electorate, but only if we get on the correct side of these issues with the American electorate.

If you wonder about the power to mobilize, look at what happened to Republican and Democratic Congresses who tried to pass that amnesty bill in the Senate. Neither could because of the outrage by the American people. And now we have a situation where in the exit polling 21% of the electorate want to move towards amnesty, and that's one of the goals of this new incoming administration.

I could just share with you, I think there is such an opportunity if conservatives are willing to lead, to get out there and define these issues about national security, drive this point home, and frankly organize around the basic principles that people care about, which is protecting this country, our allies, our way of life,

Get the word out about what radical Islam is trying to do to Western civilization, and connect the dots with how the left is going to impede our ability to stop those attacks in London, in Tel Aviv, in New York, in Washington, D.C., in the future, let's drive that point home.

Thank you very much.

Larry Greenfield: Congressman Thaddeus McCotter represents the citizens of West Oakland and Western Wayne Counties in Michigan.

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter: I hate talking after distinguished people, and I hate having distinguished people talk after me because it reveals me for what I am, I'm mediocrity.

What I would like to touch upon is the domestic agenda of the Republican Party. Now, I wrote a piece in The American Spectator right after the election called "Welcome to Republican Rock Bottom," and I believe that it is not a crisis but it's an opportunity, there's an opportunity to seize freedom.

But within our party, what we have to do is return to the philosophical roots of what conservatism and what Republicanism is, and not simply immediately try to come up with a programmatic bullet point list that we believe will redeem us and regain the American voters trust in us, because as has already been pointed out, it is a deeper problem than that.

A Republican Party that understood the times in which it lives, and understands the principles which all Republicans share, could not have put us in the position where we are today.

I would like to issue this disclaimer: I don't believe in the phrase "rebranding." If you open up a candy bar and the candy bar tastes rancid, the answer is not to simply put a new wrapper on the candy bar. The candy bar will still taste rancid. What you have to do is go back to root beliefs and build from there with an understanding of the times in which you live.

Let me put this in the premise of what Mr. Barone talked about with the younger generation. As is the fate of so many Irish poets, I don't remember the man's name, but there was a wonderful poem about a young man, who just as he was growing up looked at his father and wondered, "Why I am so much smarter than you, Dad? There's a great big world out there to conquer, and you spent your time here working, taking care of us, and you never really lived." And so the young man went off, and he met war, saw death. He met the world. And his father died while he was gone. And so the young man came home, and on the top of the fireplace they found a box of truths. And the young man opened the box of truths and wept. And a tall tree sprouted on his father's grave.

We believe in choices, we believe in freedom, but conservatism and Republicans also understand that there are eternal truth and principles that have been revealed throughout the unfolding of divine providence that link us, that prevents us buying into ideologies that leads to totalitarian states or ideologies that lead to anarchist states.

In the soul of every human being is the quest for belonging, the quest for human interaction, the quest for rootedness. You cannot have a virtual family, a virtual community. You have to have flesh and blood, contact, a sense of belonging, and a sense of purpose and understanding, especially in the times in which we find ourselves.

The times in which we find ourselves are very dangerous, they're very challenging, because we are moving from an industrialized world to a globalized world. If you think about the challenges that were faced by the greatest generation, this will make sense. The greatest generation moved from an agrarian and a guild society to an industrial one, and faced four distinct challenges.

They faced the challenge of industrialization, itself, with its social and economic and political turmoil. They faced a world war against an abjectly evil enemy. They faced the rise of the Soviet super state as a strategic threat and rival model of governance, and they faced the moral question of the civil rights struggle, does the Constitution apply to everyone equally regardless of race?

This generation of Americans faces four distinct generational challenges. We are moving from an industrialized to a globalized economy that has social, economic, and political turmoil. We face a world war, call it global, if you want, we face a world war against an abjectly evil enemy. We face the rise of the communist Chinese super state as a strategic threat and rival model of governance, and we face the moral question of whether moral relativism will erode a nation built upon self-evident truths.

The greatest generation faced their crisis consecutively, we face ours simultaneously. It is a time in which people feel the traditional ways of living and traditional courses of life are being rapidly deteriorated by forces outside their control. They felt that the Republican majority did not understand this, did not govern, and in many ways accelerated the deterioration of traditional ways of life, not merely economic ways of life. In that time they latched on to a candidate whose only mantra that anyone can remember is change.

Now, as we know, as conservatives and as Republicans, change can be beneficial or change can be detrimental. But we have reached a point where because conservatives have strayed from their principles and lacked an understanding of the many ways, chaotic times in which we find ourselves, that they thought there could be no worse change. And that in many ways explains where we are.

Now, what are the five principles Republicans share, although we may differ amongst our spectrum and where we apply these and how they are applied, but there are five central principles I believe of Republicanism and conservatism.

Our liberty is from God, not the government.
Our sovereignty is in our souls, not the soil.
Our strength, our security is from strength, not surrender.
Our prosperity is from the private sector, not the public sector.
Our truths are self-evident, not relative.

It is this fundamental conservatism, fundamental Republicanism that we have to remind first ourselves and then the electorate that we believe in and from which we build policies that address the challenges they face.

To simply go towards a choice based new market state, as Philip Bobbitt and others have put forward, is the path to serfdom, it is the path to Western Europeanization. People need more than choices. We are not mere existentialists although we can no longer smoke. If the world is absurd, Mr. Sarte, so are you.

What we need to do is to understand and help especially young people understand, is that in a chaotic age simply having choice is not what you are looking for, because big Government will deny the entrepreneurial choices that you seek.

This is why young people are prone to support big government programs, because they have yet to run into a place where their entrepreneurship and the free market economy has been blunted by the heavy hand of government.

And they have also yet to understand why raising your children, loving your spouse, being a part of your community can be so harmed by the role of big government, which often comes between parents and the imparting of morals to their own children.

What we need to do is understand the times, use the principles, and put them forward. And when the next change comes the Republican Party's mantra will not simply be change, it will be innovative restoration towards a beneficial change.

Thank you.

Larry Greenfield: Our next speaker, Deneen Borelli, works with black conservatives on an initiative of the National Center for Public Policy Research based in Washington, D.C. She promotes the importance of personal responsibility and the benefits of free market policies as a means for social advancement. Please welcome Deneen Borelli.

Deneen Borelli:
Thank you very much.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Restoration Weekend. I am feeling restored! I don't know about you. I'm glad to be here among this distinguished panel, and I think it's very important for us to talk about the future of the conservative movement. And briefly I'm going to describe the reasons I see the recent political defeat and the outline of a strategy that will carry us to victory.

Now, let me state the obvious: we lost, okay? During this past election the conservatives suffered a significant political loss. Not only did Obama win all the states that Kerry and Gore won, he also won the traditional red states like Virginia and North Carolina. Obama won by an electoral landslide, with momentum that carried him with a good number of Senate and House seats. In summary, using a football analogy, it was a rout, and we got rolled!

So, where do conservatives go from here? Let's start with the good news. I don't believe the election was a referendum on conservative principles. How could it be when John McCain was the candidate? While McCain is a true American hero, he's not a conservative. We remember legislation like McCain-Feingold, McCain-Lieberman – I think you know where I'm going with this.

Similarly Obama's victory was not a referendum for liberalism. Obama won simply because the majority of the America people were mad at the Bush Administration. And, boy, are they going to get the change that they never seen before in their lives!

Now, one major problem is that too many Republican politicians have abandoned the conservative principle of limited government. From a marketing perspective, some of our Republican politicians have muddled the message of the conservative brand.

Since I have more experience in marketing than politics, I view our challenges chiefly from a marketing perspective. To summarize, brand management failed, the conservative market share dropped, and the competition forged ahead.

Now, the conservative brand has been mismanaged from our sales force, Republican elected officials. Over the last eight years we've seen an explosion in spending: the expansion of government under Bush's watch, Ted Stevens from Alaska, the "bridge to nowhere"….

Going back to marketing basics, the success of any brand depends on whether the product or service can successfully deliver on its poor attributes, consistency, quality, and also deliver as a feel good for a person to relate to that product.

So, tell me something, how many of you were proud to wear the McCain button? How many of you are happy to get those RNC donation letters in the mail still? Not too many. The bottom line is this, the future of the conservative movement depends on communicating the brand's key attributes: limited government, national security, and low taxes.

Now, by adhering to these themes through policies and actions, the conservative movement can generate political momentum to win elections. Now, given this fractured state, the conservative brand needs to be reinvented.

First, we need to demand that our Republican politicians communicate these core values. Knowing that once elected, that some officials tend to go to the dark side, and so we need to establish a mechanism for them to enforce these values.

Our conservative leaders need to be reminded that actions have consequences. To ensure compliance we need to establish a grassroots effort of quality control, sticking with the marketing theme.

Individuals can blog, write letters, attend townhall meetings, and report on what our elected officials are doing and saying. And, believe me, elected officials tend to have e-mail alerts that let them know that their name is in the press. They don't like negative press. So if an elected official claims to be conservative, and they don't live-up to their words, they should be recalled, just like a defective product.

The conservative movement must also reach new demographics, something that has been mentioned already by some of our panelists. Now, Obama got 67% of the Hispanic vote. He also got 95% of the black vote. Now, this is where an extension of the brand is necessary. Copying the way consumer products are marketed to different groups, the advertising of conservative values need to be tailored to reach new demographic audiences.

Now, unfortunately, many blacks voted for Obama because of his race and not his policies. Now, tragically, Obama's policies will propagate government dependency in urban communities. His overall message is, "Ask not what you can do for your country, but ask what your country can do for you," the opposite of John Kennedy's message.

With all the problems in urban communities -- failing schools, single parent households, unemployment, drugs, gangs, big government cannot solve these problems. So to chip away at Obama's overwhelming popularity, the conservative movement needs a top, down and bottom, up approach.

Now, from the top, conservatives need to communicate the conservative message by, let's say, a popular, well-known, trusted black leader. Maybe in the entertainment world, sports world, media world. Oprah Winfrey comes to mind, but we all know where Oprah Winfrey stands. And if she would only say, "School choice is great," can you imagine what a game changer that would be? Someone like Lynn Swann comes to mind.

From the bottom, conservative principles can be communicated through popular mediums which were referenced up here, such as YouTube, videos, music videos. It is a hit means of reaching our younger generation to get them involved, educated and informed about the issues. To this point, there are several popular videos on YouTube right now, where there's a young Black man, a formal liberal mind you, who raps about the message on the conservative movement. If you're interested, you can find it on Macho Sauce Productions, and he's got a really positive message. I'm hoping it's connecting with the younger generation. And we have Joe the Plumber.

So, in conclusion, despite the recent election and the overwhelming support of demographic groups for Obama, anything is possible. I didn't think I would be standing up here talking a year ago, so anything is possible.

But I'd like to leave you with this thought. I wonder how many of you know that the Marlboro brand cigarette was formerly marketed towards women, complete with a pink filter. It had a pink filter to match lipstick. Now, in the '60s the brand was remarketed, totally transformed, with the Marlboro country western theme. Now, ladies, you remember the cowboys – the handsome men, tall, chiseled features. It was the creativity of this vigilant brand management that helped Marlboro maintain its brand identity, its brand loyalty, and the 50% market share that it still has today.

So as we look towards the future of the conservative movement, the brand must be revitalized, and it must be communicated, and we must stay on message with our values: limited government, low taxes, and national security. These are the powerful concepts that can attract newcomers and reinforce brand loyalty.

Thank you.

Brian Anderson: What I'm going to talk about today, briefly, is actually my newer book, A Manifesto For Media Freedom, and specifically about what the future of conservative media is. At the risk of sounding a bit alarmist, and coming after Dick Morris that's probably not a risk, real threats are gathering that are potentially going to transform in radical ways the American media universe. And in ways quite hostile to right-of-center opinion and ideas, and I would argue very hostile to the principles of free speech, as well.

With the Democrats in complete control of the federal government, liberal lawmakers and advocacy groups are planning to push for a barrage of new regulations that will drive political talk radio, the one medium dominated by conservative and Libertarian voices, from the broadcast airwaves. And potentially it's going to ensnare the internet, as well.

Now, the most well-known of these threats is the Fairness Doctrine, better dubbed as the "speech chilling or censorship doctrine."

The Fairness Doctrine was a Federal Communications Commission regulation that was codified in the late 1940s, and it required radio stations and later broadcast television stations to cover issues of interest to the community and to do so in a way that provided airtime to opposing viewpoints. Lack of compliance with this government regulation meant potential fines and potentially even loss of license for the station.

Setting up the federal government as the ultimate arbiter of what could be said on radio and TV when it came to political opinion, the Fairness Doctrine ruled the broadcast medium until the mid-1980s when Ronald Reagan's FCC determined that it was suppressing free speech. And they began phasing it out in 1985, and got rid of it entirely in 1987.

But what happened with the Fairness Doctrine out of the way? Talk radio exploded. Back in 1980, when the Fairness Doctrine was still in place, there were only a hundred radio stations broadcasting talk radio programming across the entire country. Within a decade, after 1987, there were thousands in every corner of the country and this, again, has had a seismic political impact because for a variety of reasons the conservative voices prevailed on the airwaves.

The Fairness Doctrine did suppress free speech, as the Reagan FCC contended, and how could it not? Stations didn't want to have to deal with government regulators coming in, looking over their shoulders with their stopwatches out, trying to determine whether or not various personalities and politicians or issues had received fair treatment.

So, they shied away from divisive opinion of any kind. As one journalist put it, timid, don't rock the boat coverage was the order of the day. So, from the outset, too, and this is very important to note, and we do it in this book, A Manifesto for Media Freedom, we look at the history of this. Washington politicians, Democratic and Republican, used this regulation to go after their smaller number of critics on the airwaves at that time, just to hassle them and shut them up. And so it was a regulation that invited abuse.

Well, the Democrats are unbelievably hot to bring it back. On election day, as Bernie Goldberg mentioned yesterday, Senator Chuck Schumer could barely contain himself. He likened conservative talk radio to a form of pornography and said, "If you're going to regulate one, well, why not be able to regulate the other"?

But Schumer was only the latest leading Democrat. Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Al Gore, Robert Kennedy, Jr., Jeff Bigaman, are among the others who is recent months have talked about revising federal communications law and bringing back the Fairness Doctrine.

There's even a play that got a good review in the New York Times, I believe about two weeks ago, on how the Fairness Doctrine was defeated. It's called "Fair and Decent," and the contention of the play, that it gave birth to what the playwright, Thomas Biggs, sees as this new dark era of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. This is something that liberals are very serious about.

Make no mistake about it, a new Fairness Doctrine would obliterate talk radio, just as the old one kept it from being born. And not only because of the nuisance and cost to stations of dealing with federal speech police, they'd have to hire all these lawyers for various reasons, including the dominant left leaning tendencies of much of the rest of the mainstream media, the left has just flopped on radio.

Toward the end of its run on its then flagship station, WLIB in New York, Air America, which had this incredible rollout of more free publicity than any media enterprise in recent memory, it was attracting fewer listeners than the all Caribbean news programming that it had replaced, and this was true, in a very liberal city.

Now, the left has just not been able to compete in the airwaves, and after that recognition was made, George Soros' Media Matters group, or it's a group that he helped found, he began to agitate for the return of the Fairness Doctrine. And that's when people really started talking it up again. This is about two or three years ago.

So, you know, the economic rationale is if a radio station had to practice political affirmative action running a left wing show with few listeners and few responsers, if it wanted to broadcast a successful conservative show, it might look at the economics of that and say, "Let's shift formats to something else, entertainment coverage, sports coverage, anything but politics."

Now, Obama during the campaign said, "Well, maybe it's not such a good idea to bring it back." But it's hard to imagine him vetoing a Fairness Doctrine bill if Congress gives him one, especially when you consider the guy he's just appointed to head-up the search team for a new FCC Commissioner, whose appointment is going to give the Democrats a three-to-two advantage on that body.

Henry Rivera, a former FCC Commissioner, he's a longtime proponent and advocate of the Fairness Doctrine. So I saw this as a very disturbing sign. And keep in mind, too, that you would need a new law to bring back the Fairness Doctrine. You would really just need a change in the regulatory environment of the FCC. So the Democrats are going to have the three-to-two advantage on that body, so we could be seeing movement in that direction.

Now, moreover, and this is the second big threat, Obama plans, does plan and quite explicitly a variety of other regulations that are going to be equally damaging to political speech in my view.

He and most Democrats want to tighten media ownership regulations and expand what are called the "public interest duties of broadcasters." And one such measure they're very keen on is to impose greater local accountability on broadcasters. So that is it’s forcing broadcasters to carry more local programming, even if the public doesn't want to listen to this.

And as it's sketched out by the Democrats, the stations are going to be subjected to renewing their licenses every two years, not eight years, which is the case today, and Obama wants to include in the re-licensing process the input of local community boards, which would be swiftly taken over, as you can imagine, by activists who would be in the re-licensing process all the time.

This is community organizing applied to medium. It's aimed at the national syndicators who are putting on shows from coast to coast, and this is a very serious threat. Not too many people are talking about this, because they've been talking about the Fairness Doctrine, but this is just as troubling.

So since we're short on time, let me just conclude by saying today's political Left is pursuing, in my view and in the view I would imagine of any conservative, a very scary goal of controlling political speech. This is completely at odds with the First Amendment, completely at odds with the ideals of our Founders. And it's more in keeping with the '60s radicalism of Saul Alinsky, whose idea of totalitarian idea of repressive tolerance is what this is all about.

And a world in which conservative talk radio is a diminished or hampered presence is going to be a world in which the left and liberals are going to be enabled to enact their preferred legislation more easily, whether this is higher taxes, racial preferences, military cutbacks, on and on.

Now, this is not getting a lot of mainstream press coverage. The broadcast networks haven't even mentioned this, even though they're potentially subject to some of this, as well.

I think all conservatives and anybody who cares about free speech, whatever their political leanings, needs to understand what's going on and fight this battle tooth and nail in the months ahead, because it really could transform the entire climate of debate in the country.

Anyway, thanks. I want to leave some time for some questions.

Larry Greenfield: I want to give each of our panelists a minute each to say whatever they want about whatever they said or anybody else said, a second bite at the apple.

Michael Barone: Well, let me just say a couple of words about the tension between cultural conservatives who are an important part of the conservative coalition and young voters who the conservative coalition needs to attract to take more liberal stands on cultural issues, at least in current opinion.

And I think one way to lessen or bridge that tension is to recognize that the way some of these issues are being presented now, our question, that the Left is using either the courts or the, at least temporarily Democratic Congress to impose a one size fits all rule on the country.

There are proposals from the feminist Left for their so-called Freedom of Choice Act, which would basically repeal all restrictions on abortion that have been voted by state governments or in referendum by the people.

And, of course, the Roe v. Wade decision and some of the state supreme court decisions on same sex marriage, impose one size fits all solution on people who may not be in favor of that and who generally speaking aren't.

I think that calling for people to have their choices respected here, particularly on restrictions on abortion, that's a majority opinion as currently stated, and it's interesting when you look at opinion among young people, they are less enthusiastic for abortion rights and abortion, just as they are less enthusiastic about divorce than the generation, the '60 something first baby boom generation of feminists Left.

So I think that there, I think that if the cultural Right imposes total litmus tests on candidates it's setting itself up for a situation where it's going to be very difficult to get an electoral majority.

I think if the focus is on providing choices, respecting the choices of the peoples' elected representatives or the people themselves voting in referendum, rather than having Democrats or left wing people at the peak, at the courts or in the Congress imposing their choices on the whole nation.

Rep. Ed Royce: Well, let me say, first of all, that I think freedom is the thing that unites us. We're very much a leave-us-alone coalition, where we are politically. And I think the thing that most distresses everybody in this room or should are the points that Brian Anderson made, because Jefferson is really the fountainhead of our belief system. I mean what he did in terms of the architecture of this Republic and the right to free speech. That right to free speech is what is at risk.

And if you ask yourself what could I do to change that? You all live in communities where you have local talk radio, or you have the ability to write a letter to the editor. You buy Brian Anderson's book, and get these arguments down, and then get with your friends and get on talk radio, and write those letters to the editor, and begin driving and defining this issue now so that it becomes the defining issue, whether it's on the college campus, or it's in your local community.

Because nothing is more important than losing one of our fundamental rights, the right to free speech. And that is what is very much at risk, and a tremendous amount of resources are going in on the left in terms of finding out a way to shut down our voice.

So how many here think that they might be willing to do that, to buy his book, to master those arguments, to get on talk radio, to advocate this in your community? You can have a real difference, because as you do that and you tell other people about his work, that is going to amplify around your community, and other people are going to want to know about it, and they're going to be talking at work about it, or they're going to be talking in their community or in their church about it.

So, please, all of you do that. Thank you.

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter: I like this, I love doing forums and campaigns where they analyze and solve the world's problems in two minutes. So for one minute I'll just try to stick to some core propositions.

I think it is important to remember that America is a country and not an economy. I think it is important to remember that you are citizens, not consumers. As we move towards what many people believe is the new globalist market state we must remember that at core the sovereignty of the United States rests with you, every single one of you, and in that sense our free Republic is based upon you.

That is why we are a country, not merely an economy. We are not here as Republicans to manage, we are here to lead. The Republican Party is not a commodity to be mass marketed, it is a transformational political movement composed of sovereign citizens who want to keep America the greatest nation on earth and bequeath it to their children.

These are fundamental things that the Republican Party got away from. I joined the Republican Party because of Ronald Reagan, the fact that conservatism as I was a young person, agreeing with it was not an ideology, it was a philosophy, it allowed for room for discussion, for debate, for different decisions on major issues because we reunited in a common cause to keep America the greatest nation on earth and with a common philosophy of conservatism based upon common sense and experience.

I'm very optimistic about the future. It's not my nature, but I really am, because I truly believe that in this moment Republicans realize that the things that we've done in the past, as Lincoln said, "We are free of the tired dogma of the past, we are free to think anew and act anew." And when Republicans have hit rock bottom we will not curl-up and die, we will rise-up and serve the sovereign American people and help to keep us the greatest nation on earth during the age of globalization.

Deneen Borelli: I just want to say that I know what government dependency does to people. I've seen it up close and personal with family members, and I learned through my own perseverance and learning and finding out new things. Because there was a disconnect with me because I was fortunate enough to work for 20 years at the same company, a company that put me through college. It took me 11 years to finish because I worked full-time and because my parents didn't have the money to put me through college. And I did that.

And I got involved in public policy issues because of that disconnect, and I don't like seeing the way my family members have suffered, but those were their choices. And so I'm going to do everything I can because I do believe in a conservative movement, and I do believe we can reach other individuals, young people, old people, and let them know that freedom isn't free, and the movement really depends on all of us getting involved.

Thank you.

Brian Anderson: I really couldn't improve on Congressman Royce's comments, including him plugging my book, which he did a much better job of than I've ever done.

But the idea of a leave us alone coalition emphasizing freedom I think is very important in this media context, because the right, including social conservatives, have benefited tremendously from the explosion of alternative media over the last two decades, starting with talk radio, then with cable and cable news.

And finally with the internet. And a lot of what's on there, of course, many conservatives don't like, but the proliferation of choices has allowed a lot more opinion to get heard in American political life, including right of center opinion, and I think it's very important for conservatives to remember that and emphasize this kind of freedom.

One last thing, I didn't talk about is potential regulatory threat to the internet called "network neutrality." This is something Obama is very keen on, and my fear is that it's the beginning of a kind of FCC rule over the internet, comparable to the way it has powers over broadcast media, and that you could wind-up with a Fairness Doctrine for the internet, and internet opinion sites.

And when you look at who is advising the Democrats and Obama on this, Cass Sunstein, a very well-known legal professor, he has explicitly advocated a Fairness Doctrine for the internet, so that David Horowitz' FrontPage Magazine would have to run something from CAIR on its electronic sidebar. Now, this sounds wild and crazy, and I think it would be unconstitutional, but their thinking this way is very disturbing.

So I'll leave you with that. Thank you.

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