As a conservative by declaration and action, I find myself a bit lost in today's political world. I have traditionally felt very comfortable in the Republican party as I felt it also held to my conservative principles. Lately, after licking my wounds from what I consider unacceptable loses, I find myself bewildered that the Republican party has abandoned traditional conservative principles. At least in action the Republican party has abandoned conservative principles; it certainly isn't difficult to find a Republican candidate that talks a good game from the sidelines, but completely drops the ball when put into the game. So I assume many conservatives feel the same dilemma that I do; skip out on the Republican party to join a third party, skip out of voting in order the punish the Republican party, or keep screaming at the Republican party in hopes that they will eventually hear us.
Facing this dilemma, maybe the first step in making a decision should be to put a few thoughts on "paper" that describe what I think the Republican party needs in order to keep my vote.
The Republican party needs candidates that understand the simple principle of living within your means. More often than not we are tempted to suggest that only politicians are confused by this simple principle. The reality is that the vast majority of America has fallen victim the temptation of debt. I believe this is why the American voter is incapable of recognizing a candidate that isn't truly fiscally conservative. A household that is consistently paying toward the balance and interest of several credit cards has little concern with a politician that can't create a balanced budget. However, the typical American family sitting around their dinner table does understand that an increase in income is very rarely the answer to a debt problem. By definition, a conservative understands spending reduction to be the answer to a balanced budget. The Republican party needs candidates with proven fiscal principles of balanced budgets. The litmus test should be a candidate's campaign; a candidate that can't lead a debt free campaign isn't likely to offer balanced budget once in office.
Many a Republican candidate has completely fumbled the ball on social topics. On social issues, the Republican party seems to have an "open mouth and insert foot" philosophy. The search for the politically correct (or politically advantageous) answer to social issues has left the Republican party looking like flip-floppers that rival John Kerry's "I voted for it before I voted against it". The Republican party needs candidates that without apology will address social issues with a focus on family. Family, being defined as a married man & women with children, is the foundation of any society. It doesn't have to be laced with religious overtones; family as the foundational element of a strong society should be fostered without apology. History has proven time and again the strong, thriving societies crumble from within long before they are defeated by an outside adversary. Once the foundational element, the family, starts to fall apart, so goes the rest of society. The Republican party needs candidates that will foster strength within the family through fiscal policies, educational policies, health policies... I'll stop the repetition there and just say all policies must promote the family.
I want America to be exceptional. That is not a statement of arrogance or a "holier than thou" mentality. I want America to be exceptional so that my children will be provided with a safe and stable society within which they can grow and thrive. I want America to be exceptional in order that America can support and assist other countries in the quest to also be exceptional. You see, I recognize that in order for America to offer the best support to others, America must first be strong and secure. The Republican party needs candidates with a foreign policy that recognizes that American can provide better aid to other countries when America is thriving and prospering - America first. Sometimes we have to say "no". Aid provided to other countries at the expense of a weaker America benefits no one long term. Additionally an exceptional America has greater influence over rogue countries and radical organizations. America doesn't need to be a bully, but recognition must be given to fact that no one on the school playground picks on the big, burly kid that says "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am". Without apology, the Republican party needs candidates that will promote and can skillfully communicate the need for American exceptional-ism.
Well, now that those are captured on "paper", I feel like I have a means by which to measure the Republican party. By no means is this an exhaustive list of what the Republican party needs, but it is certainly a list of things the Republican party had better establish very quickly in order to keep bewildered conservatives like me on the team.