On a night like tonight, I cannot help but reflect upon my experiences in the summer of 1993. It was at this time that I was an undergraduate living in Pittsburgh, spending my first summer away from home. Bill Clinton had just been elected the previous year, with a sizable Democratic majority in Congress. The honeymoon hadn’t yet worn off from his presidency, and the mood was hopeful that Hillary would finally make health care a right in this country. Everywhere I turned, liberalism seemed ascendant, especially in the tony university district of Pittsburgh which I inhabited. And it was the first time that I seriously questioned my own political views. I knew on some gut instinct that it was wrong to nationalize health care. But I couldn’t articulate a logical argument on why that was so. Aren’t people “entitled” to decent health care? Isn’t it just plain cruel to maintain the status quo and leave people at the mercy of the market? Aren’t doctors, hospitals, HMOs and drug companies engaged in a conspiracy of greed to maximize profits at the expense of people’s health? I knew all of these arguments were flawed. But why? And if I can’t explicitly establish why, maybe it’s because I’m the one that’s wrong. Maybe I should follow the crowd and hop on board the Clinton bandwagon.
And then I discovered Rush Limbaugh. Rush uncovered within me the reasons for my objections to statism. He encouraged me to stand firm in my views and don’t just go with the flow of the liberal mainstream. He inspired within me the – dare I say it – hope to believe that the fundamentals of conservatism were not based in bigotry, ignorance and greed, but in dignity and respect for individual liberties, the power of the free market, and the time-honored traditions of the past. Looking back, I am certain that if I had not discovered my “inner conservative,” I would have drifted into a milquetoast moderate, and I’m almost certain that the chemjeff of 1993 would have voted for Obama in 2008. Instead I’m proud to have supported McCain.
The moral of this story is that it took the disaster of the 1992 election to strengthen me as a conservative. Had Clinton not won, I never would have had any reason to hone and refine my conservative views. I now know precisely why I am a conservative: because I deeply respect the dignity of the individual. Nationalizing health care doesn’t respect the individual; it lumps people into a collective, robbing them of their identities and subjugating them to the coercive power of an ever-expanding state. And that is what all liberal big-government schemes do. That is the message I took away from Rush. That is what inspired me about Newt Gingrich’s Revolution of 1994. And that is what continues to inspire me to this day.
So this current election disaster can also serve as an opportunity. It was repeated over and over again on FNC and elsewhere that Obama won despite the fact that we remain a center-right country. Campaign rhetoric aside, Obama didn’t actually promise European-style socialism, and he would have lost if he had. But, like the scorpion in the famous parable, there is a reason why Obama has a D behind his name, and it will not be long before he reveals his true nature. When he does, it will be in ways that will give pause to the center-right citizens of our nation, like myself in 1993. If we truly are still a center-right nation, then there are millions of people out there just waiting to make the type of personal transformation that I made.
So I believe that our mission, as Obama’s agenda unfolds, should be to facilitate these transformations. We need to each be our own Rush Limbaughs and spread the word on personal liberty, free markets, and the values of traditions.