Early speakers at the Conservative Leadership Conference called on conservatives to take a fresh look at how to advance their ideas.
One fresh look might be on ways to connect with voters who are struggling and might hear the conservative message, if they believed we were on their side.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum pointed out that in 2012 nearly one quarter of voters felt the top issue was: Does the candidate care about people like me?
The elites are complacent about that, “But if you’re struggling, you care,” he said.
On these issues, he said, conservatives and Republicans to often fail to listen to, and address, those concerns. “When it comes to public policy we are absolutely tone deaf.”
Conservatives look back to Reagan-era solutions, but we are as far from Reagan’s era as he was from Thomas Dewey, the unsuccessful candidate of 1948. Take the slogan “a rising tide raises all boats.” “A rising tide does lift all boats,” he said, “unless your boat has a hole in it.”
Many working people share the values of conservatives, he went on to say. “They want to vote for us but they don’t think we give a darn about them, because we never talk about them.”
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint also noted that Americans will often back conservative stands, if the people know and understand what’s going on in Washington. “We are a growing movement and we do have a majority in America — if we learn how to talk to people.”
And things are changing. The Internet and the growth of grassroots organizations has enabled conservatives to bring more pressure on Washington, as in the defeat of the 2007 immigration reform measure and in the ban of earmarks.
That’s why it’s up to citizens to be involved. “The power to change this country and the responsibility to save this county is in the hands of people,” he said. “It’s your country, it’s your job.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest exclaimed, “Conservatism is really cool!” and he went on to assure the gathering that “people are eager for truth. eager for bold messages.”