Reagan: Fight for People, not Against Things

Here is Arthur C. Brooks writing at The Insider:

In a democratic system, the minority is by definition the opposition. Their de facto position is fighting against the ideas of the other side. Political minorities fight against something that’s more powerful than they are. And over time, their entire self-identity can become utterly reliant on acting like the principled underdog.

When conservatives fight against teachers’ unions, fight against Obamacare, fight against debt, spending, the expansion of government, we are not setting an agenda. We are reacting to an agenda. When this process is repeated over and over, conservatives start to forget that fighting against things is not our true goal, but merely one tactic for reaching larger goals. We let our temporary political fortunes ossify into a permanent minoritarian mindset.

This is an error. First of all, conservatives are not actually in the minority. According to Gallup, significantly more Americans identify as conservative (38 percent) than as moderate (34 percent) or liberal (24 percent). Liberals are the smallest ideological minority, yet they adroitly think and act like a majority. They claim incessantly that they’re fighting for the “99 percent.” That is inherently majoritarian language, and the public frequently rewards them with legislative majorities to match it. Paradoxically, though conservatives outnumber liberals, we have become accustomed to behaving like a minority and fighting against things.

Let’s return to the 1980s for a moment. Conservatives constantly invoke the memory of Ronald Reagan, an excellent president. Was it Reagan who led the conservative movement to fight against things?

The answer is no. On the contrary, Reagan understood better than anyone that a minority fights against things while a majority fights for people. He understood the dangers of limitless government, to be sure. But he always brought the conversation home to the people hurt by overreach. He didn’t pretend that most people regard the size of the government as an intrinsic philosophical evil.

Read more: The Insider