Conservatism cannot and should not simply be about stopping things; rather it should follow Ronald Reagan’s example of inspiring people to achieve, Democrat-turned-Republican former Rep. Artur Davis told an audience gathered at the Heritage Foundation Friday morning for Accuracy In Media’s ObamaNation: A Day of Truth conference.
Davis criticized his former party for cutting out the conservatives and moderates who once had a major role, while reminding conservatives they need to resist the temptation to be as shrill as the voices on the left.
President Reagan faced a similar bleak situation to what we face today when he came to power in the early 1980s, but he confronted it with a sort of optimistic conservatism of the possible, Davis said.
“Ronald Reagan’s conservatism ought to remind everybody … that we have nothing to be defensive about,” Davis said. “We are more than able to describe based on our principles why free markets are the best way of closing the gaps between the high and low points in society.”
Davis argued that markets provide better solutions to the ills of society than those that depend solely on government.
“[Reagan] strengthened freedom and he made liberty work for people who had not necessarily appreciated its virtue,” Davis said. “Ronald Reagan took liberty and freedom, which are very imaginative concepts and gave them power that it never had before.”
Reagan’s optimism allowed him to win parts of the country that had typically written off the GOP in 1984 when he won 49 of the 50 states and came within a percentage point of beating former Vice President Walter Mondale in his home state of Minnesota.
“You cannot have people walk through doors unless you empower people to stay strong once they walk through those doors,” he said. “They believe on the left in opening doors, but we believe that making sure that when they walk through those doors that they have the power to stay inside the room.
“We don’t have to guess about this. We have a track record of our policies working.”
Davis suggested the GOP needs to do more to connect with black Americans and show them how free-market solutions benefit them and help to improve their lives.