Note: This is a draft of a 200-word speech that I wrote for a speechwriting class on the future of conservatism.
Ronald Reagan told us to “always remember that you are Americans, and it is your birthright to dream great dreams in this sweet and blessed land.” Another more recent Republican president told us that he had “abandoned free-market principles to save the free market.” One of these men is remembered as a great conservative president. The other is remembered as George W. Bush.
The future of conservatism lies in articulating a vision. Ideologies die when there is no direction. It is not enough for us to simply present a plan for the next four years. It is not enough to say that we will repeal ObamaCare, lower tax rates, and cut back on regulations. Those are policies. They are not a vision.
Progressives excel at presenting a vision. They are not afraid to propose new, controversial policies even if it loses them an election. They constantly push the boundaries of the political discussion. And so we are stuck on defense, forced to disagree with their proposals instead of presenting our own. We win elections, but the country moves leftward.
For conservatism to be more than just a response, it must stop being ashamed of itself. We must present a full-throated vision of freedom from an oversized government, a vision of a country where people are not blocked from achieving their full economic potential. For conservatism to have a future, it must first offer Americans one.