Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Goldwater Institute: Rumors of Conservatism's demise have been greatly exaggerated

by Darcy Olsen

In the aftermath of the 1964 presidential election, the American media was quick to interpret Lyndon Johnson's landslide victory as not just a defeat for Barry Goldwater, but as the end of a movement.

"Barry Goldwater not only lost the presidential election yesterday," New York Times Washington Bureau Chief James Reston declared, "but the conservative cause as well."

We should not be surprised to read similar stories today. Even before the election, news outlets were publishing articles declaring R.I.P. Reagan Revolution, The End of the Reagan Era, and even, The End of Conservatism as we Know It.

Whoa Nellie! Many candidates faced tough elections this year, not because they stood for limited government and fiscal responsibility, but because once in government, they abandoned the very principles they professed to believe in.

The press, however, may neglect this fact in favor of a narrative suggesting the American people have repudiated the free enterprise system and embraced big government.

This narrative will get plenty of airtime, but history suggests that a different lesson may be in order. Two years after Reston's declaration that the conservative cause was lost, America elected two dozen new Congressmen and ten new Governors on limited government platforms- and a Goldwater man named Ronald Reagan was elected Governor of California. Reston, so it seems, had got it wrong.

Commentators who suggest this year's election results mark the death of limited government principles are as wrong today as Reston was in 1964.

In this election, voters overwhelmingly rejected what they viewed as the big-government conservatism of the Bush administration in hopes of putting an end to a dismal era. While Senator McCain may have lost this race, the first principles of conservatism remain deeply held in the hearts of the American people and their time will come again.

Darcy Olsen is President & CEO of the Goldwater Institute. A longer version of this email appeared in the Arizona Republic and can be viewed here.

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