By Francisco Gonzalez, JMI Development Director
During the August Friends of JMI Conference Call, American Conservative Union (ACU) Chairman Al Cardenas provided an overview of the current state of the conservative movement, focusing his discussion on the recent debate over the raising of the debt ceiling. Mr. Cardenas believes that the debate itself was a victory for conservatives and provided some valuable lessons, which include:(1) Conservatives stopped the bleeding. While the debt ceiling was raised, conservatives effectively used this “deal” to set America on the right course. He said conservatives only control one part of one chamber of Congress so it wasn’t realistic to expect to get everything wanted.(2) Conservatives have moved the needle of public opinion. More Americans are moving to the conservative viewpoint on spending. The question is: how to set America back on the right track?(3) Conservatives educated fellow Americans about the national debt. Before this debate and all the media attention it attracted, most Americans were ignorant of our country’s massive amount of debt. Thanks to the fight, most Americans know now what kind of fiscal mess we are in and understand that our level of spending (borrowing 40% of a $3.7 trillion annual federal budget) is not appropriate.(4) Conservatives won the war of information and public opinion. The debate became about spending, and tax increases were not part of the equation – or even realistically considered.(5) The President’s poll numbers dropping during and after this debate are an indication that more Americans are more fully informed about his contribution to the accumulating debt. Cardenas cited Jefferson, who had a firm belief that when well informed, Americans will do the right thing.It is noteworthy that only hours after this conference call, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+ – the first time in U.S. history that our credit rating was downgraded. Cardenas went on to say that the conservative movement has traditionally been strong with great content, but that it has become too beltway centric. He admires the role of state think tanks like The James Madison Institute that have now proliferated in every state throughout the country. With the help of these think tanks, states are now tackling important issues such as pension reform and education reform and are challenging legislators to do the right thing.The ACU has traditionally rated members of Congress with grades on how conservative are their voting records. In the coming months, the ACU will be taking this approach to state legislators, and Florida will be among the first five states rated. Another project on the ACU’s horizon is to create a virtual “conservative university” to give Americans access to a “toolbox” of conservative ideas through online lectures and other intellectual content that they will work with organizations across the country to create.Cardenas believes the first 100 days of 2013 may be the most important since WWII – if they have the numbers, conservatives need to use those first 100 days as an opportunity to pass real tax reform and the Cut, Cap, and Balance bill they have recently touted during this debt ceiling debate. Cardenas concluded his remarks with a very hopeful tone, saying that he believes this debate has given America a wake-up call, and that Americans have traditionally risen to these kinds of challenges throughout our history.What do you think? Do you agree with his assessments?
The James Madison Institute will co-sponsor the first ever Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) regional event: CPAC Florida 2011 on September 23, 2011 in Orlando. For more information, visit the CPAC Florida website–nine Presidential candidates are confirmed to speak and other confirmed guest speakers include Grover Norquist, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, Allen West, and JMI’s own Bob McClure!