Much has been made since November about how Republicans/Conservatives must go about becoming a Party with new ideas that translate to the constantly evolving electorate. A friend of mine, hitherto known as Chobemaster(yes, I know), put together an interesting monologue discussing how the most important issues must be based in the roots of conservatism. Do we need 'new ideas'? No. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. Conservatism as we know it has worked for our country before. It will work again.
In practical terms "new ideas" = "new programs", which is thus further from "core" fiscal conservatism. Realistically, what "new ideas" do we actually need? Let's rattle off the "issues" we face right now, and their conservative solutions.
Islamofacism. The current idea is to support nations confronting terror and to confront terror w/ any means necessary -- financial, diplomatic, force of arms. That's a good approach and has been working -- keep after it. Might there be tactical tweaks? Sure, but nothing that's at a national debate level. Meanwhile, endeavor to address the root cause fueling the movement…oppression of the masses in predominantly Muslim nations. This is also currently being done.
The Economy. The general conservative idea is to let capital flow in efficient markets. Let's do that, and remove impediments to it. Dictating who should get home loans, or which industries should get more capital from the taxpayer when they’ve already destroyed the capital the market allocated them are not it.
Energy. This is really a subset of the economy, but it probably bears specific mentioning. Let capital flow to solve energy needs. Drop tariffs on imported ethanol. Drop corn subsidies if ethanol is creating upward price pressure on corn, which I suspect it won't if domestic ethanol isn't shielded from competition. Drill for oil where it exists. Burn up our existing coal. Build nuke plants. Improve the transmission grid. If there are marketplaces where “alternative” energy sources are the right solution, those sources will come online through the efforts of entrepreneurs, financed by banks free to lend to the highest expected return marginal borrower provided they are free of burdensome regulation. None of this is “new”…we just need to actually do it.
Health-care. Constraining the free market isn't going to improve quality of care OR control runaway spending...much of which has of course been caused by the increased demand for medical services encouraged by the moral hazard of insurance. Certainly we don't need MORE such hazard. All government can do is make this problem worse -- so we must do nothing. We are on the cusp of a new age of medicine with designer drugs and nanotechnology. Don't spend trillions of dollars to try to "fix" a problem that is about to go away on its own.
Infrastructure. I'm not convinced there is a need for marginal federal infrastructure projects, especially on the roads-and-bridges front. I’ve never needed to get to a place I couldn’t reach by car except Hawaii. If existing federal-responsibility infrastructure needs repair/maintenance/capacity upgrades, make them. If there is a looming national infrastructure issue that local politicians are ignoring since they have too short term a focus, it's water infrastructure.
If Republicans MUST have a “make work” spending boondoggle, how about a national watershed management program? Iowa is flooding while Georgia is in a drought. Major cities are at the edge of their water capacity. While the obsession with being “green” is sweeping the country, the average municipal water system loses 20% of the water between the treatment plant and the consumer due to leaky pipes.
Education. This isn't a federal issue, except that the teachers’ union is national. Break it.
Abortion. Stop it.
Taxation. Income tax is a complicated mess that even the Secretary of the Treasury "can't" follow, and it destroys value in the economy. It also creates the single biggest lever for demagoguery in DC. Replace it with the Fair Tax or similar. (Here, the "or similar" would be a new idea, technically speaking).
Now it's the making it happen part that's difficult.