(Originally posted at http://danielalders.com/)

In case you hadn’t heard following our country’s recent affirmation of Barack Obama’s presidency, there’s been a bit of infighting among the right-leaning politicos.  In fact, it’s gotten rather ugly.  Allow me to offer you a few choice headlines to refresh your memory:

I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

All of a sudden, conservatives around the country are jumping up to re-define the Grand Old Party.  In an apparent Republican debacle, Mitt Romney’s Presidential aspirations were tossed along the wayside and the strategy of taking the “moderate” candidate is under fire.

As a result, conservatives have largely responded to Obama’s re-election in three different ways:

  1. Blame the candidate – Romney didn’t do what he needed to in order to win the election.
  2. Blame the party – Republicans as a whole failed in their attempt to Get Out The Vote and energize constituents.
  3. Blame the people – Americans didn’t care enough about the country’s future and have a flawed view of how the country should be led.
Even Rachel Maddow has picked up on this, mocking the GOP’s inability to settle on the right principles and policy message to relay to voters.

Rachel Maddow: Republicans On National And State Levels Are ‘Like Two Different Universes’ (VIDEO)

All in all, this puts conservatives in a tight spot.  We’re left asking questions like, “Where are we going as a party?”  ”What policies do we really support?”  ”Who do we want leading our party?”  ”What do we want to be known for?”

Governor Bobby Jindal, of Louisiana, had the following to say:

“That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election: If we’re going to continue to be a competitive party and win elections on the national stage and continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly: One, we are fighting for 100 percent of the votes, and secondly, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream. Period. No exceptions.” (Read more)

But do Republican/Conservative/GOP policies actually benefit all Americans?  What about those who have a different interpretation of the American dream?  51% of those who voted in the presidential election would tell you they also want to pursue the American dream, and that’s why they voted for four more years like the last four.

And this is why I would suggest to you that conservatives should not be blaming Mitt Romney for failing to defeat President Obama earlier this month.  Mitt Romney was a known entity – a successful businessman, a leader who used his ability to negotiate and compromise to the overwhelming benefit of all organizations and governments that he led, and last but not least, a moderate conservative.  He didn’t have a responsibility to be someone else, or to change his character and core beliefs.  He remained the moderate negotiator he had always been, and he worked hard to show that that was a better alternative than four more years of Obama.

And yes, it would have been.

But no – Romney is not to blame.  Rather, we should direct our attention inward – toward our party and ourselves as constituents and neighbors to the rest of the American people.  As you might expect me to say, our problem is a cultural one, and as such, the blame begins with us as individuals, communities, and local organizations.  The blame lies with we Americans who are also conservatives.  We have failed to show our moderate and liberal neighbors what  responsible conservatism looks like.  We have appeared as the party of greed, callousness, corporations, and insensitivity. We have failed to lead our communities in humanitarian efforts which might prove conservatives actually care about minorities, the poor, and underprivileged.  Why do we want to keep more of our money and feel we don’t owe the government more of what we earn?  Where do we spend our money, our time, and our resources?  I think if we were honest, we would find that we have defiled our own name, and are now paying the price.

How do we fix this identity crisis?

Educate, educate, educate.  And no, I’m not talking about the kind found in the classroom, but educating our communities, neighbors, and churches.  But first we must re-educate ourselves.  What do we believe?  What do we hold dear?  Conservatives used to have a backbone – refusing to bend whichever way public opinion swayed.  Conservatives used to stand up for principles.  Before we can educate anyone else on conservative principles, we must rediscover what it means to actually be principled.  For example, being pro-life doesn’t mean caving when it isn’t “politically correct.”  We know why we believe what we do – now we must act like it and defend our beliefs.  Second, conservatives must begin taking the lead where liberals have always held the reins.  We need to live out conservatism in such a way that our moderate and liberal friends are converting in droves on their own!  Conservatism ought to be appealing.  Conservatives need to rediscover an ability to communicate and relate.  Conservatives must overcome our prudishness and be willing to get dirty, admit our mistakes, and be the party of honor and honesty.  Which brings me to my third point, conservatives need to be honest and honorable.  There are many ways in which conservatives have not only failed the GOP, but also the American people as a whole.  We must admit where we have taken the wide and winding path instead of the narrow and straight one.  Being honorable isn’t always easy, but it is always right.  Virtue cannot be faked.  And virtue will be rewarded in the end.

If the GOP can recapture its vision – a vision for America that not only sounds good, but also looks good on those who believe and hold to it, then the fire of conservatism can burn once again.  In order to spread the burning passion of conservatism that swept this land under Goldwater and Reagan, we must rediscover who we are as conservatives.  We must reaffirm our core beliefs.  Then when we begin living out our conservatism, our actions will speak louder than our words.  We don’t need to dress it up under the guise of moderate Republicanism.  Moderate Republicanism is merely a straw man, created by our liberal friends and dressed up by those of our own party.

So yes – we can rediscover our proper identity.  We can once again know what we stand for and communicate that vision to the American people.  But it will take work.  It will take honesty.  And it will take responsibility.  But then, who ever said living the American dream was easy?