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A 2012 campaign must-read: The conservative survival guide to Mitt Romney

By Michelle Malkin  •  May 21, 2012 10:23 AM

Philip Klein is one of the best young conservative journalists in Washington, D.C. — prolific, incisive, and always refreshingly candid and consistent in holding politicians in both parties accountable for their big-government proclivities.

Many of you read his work regularly at The Examiner, and if you don’t, you should be. His health care policy analysis in particular is always must-read.

Today, Klein released a concise e-book titled “Conservative Survival in the Romney Era.” For those of us who have always stressed the importance of distinguishing between the Republican Party and the conservative movement (and long before the Tea Party movement came into being), Klein’s thoughts are just what the public discourse needs right now. It’s exactly the right message and the right time for it.

Here’s an excerpt:

Now that Romney is the nominee, it’s perfectly understandable – and rational – that conservatives would want to get behind him to defeat the far worse Obama. This work isn’t an attempt to argue otherwise. However, there’s a difference between supporting somebody for pragmatic reasons and deluding oneself into believing that he’s somebody he isn’t. It’s one thing to vote for Romney, but it’s another thing to let people convince you that you have to refrain from criticizing him when he does violence to conservative principles, because of the idea that it will help Obama.

Conservatives shouldn’t confuse being the leader of the Republican Party with being the head of the conservative movement. Conservatism, while often allied with the Republican Party, is an entirely separate thing. One is a long intellectual tradition and the other is a political vessel for those seeking power. Conservatives must avoid mixing up the two to prevent the philosophy from being corrupted, or redefined, by whomever happens to be at the helm of the GOP. Furthermore, if Republicans assume that conservatives will enthusiastically support them no matter what, they’re much less likely to govern as conservatives.

This is crucial to keep in mind whether the “Romney era” of Republicanism merely lasts through this election or if it translates into a long presidency. During the election, conservatives will need to exert pressure from the right so that Romney will run as a conservative. If he’s elected, they must do so to ensure that he governs as one.

There’s always some argument partisans will make to discourage conservatives from criticizing Republicans. In the coming months, those of us who criticize Romney from the right will be told we should save it until after November, or else we’re just helping Obama. When we do so after the election – should he win – we’ll be told he deserves a honeymoon period and needs to rack up a few accomplishments first before moving to items on the conservative agenda. Eventually, it will be that we can’t weaken him before the midterm elections, and then later, that we have to loudly support him, or else he’ll lose reelection to an even worse liberal boogeyman (or boogeywoman) in 2016.

Whatever the practical reasons for supporting Romney’s election over Obama – and believe me, I understand them – conservatives shouldn’t allow themselves to simply become an extension of the Republican Party. Romney should get conservatives’ support when he earns it, and criticism when he deserves it.

Now is a time for caution and sober reflection both for committed conservatives ready to throw up their hands in despair over the Romney nomination and for those eager to embrace Romney without reservations. America is facing a pivotal time in its history with challenges on multiple fronts. Though conservatives have an array of hopes and expectations for a Republican president – on national security, economic and social issues – my emphasis will be on the urgent need for a leader who will pursue a limited government agenda….

Even if conservatives would have preferred a different Republican nominee, there are still plenty of ways for them to advance their ideals by pressuring Romney into behaving more like the conservative for whom they had longed.

Indeed there are. Buy the book — just $2.99 for your Kindle! — and gird your loins.

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Categories: 2012 Campaign, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Media