After the sixth of November, one man will be elected to the office of President of the United States. One cannot know for sure, but it will be either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. Regardless, life will continue in the United States. Movements of the political, philosophical, or religious variety will also continue. The conservative movement, though, must be very careful to keep this election in perspective. There is a chance that a man whose policies of collectivism, coercion, theft, and despotism may regain the White House for another four years. The United States, one must admit (with hesitation and resignation), would be destroyed by another term of these policies.

Truth, after all, is not relative— even in election years when it is hard to discern truth from lie.

The conservative must remember that, in the course of Romney’s possible presidency, he might do damage to freedom in the United States, but the damage done would be minimal compared to Barack Obama’s damage. Mitt Romney is by no means a “true” conservative. His trade policies reflect protectionist sentiments. Protectionism, equates to government intervention in the markets, in order to give the people in country an advantage over another. It may sound attractive, but it is not conservative. Apart from utilitarian concerns (i.e. crippling economies), protectionism contradicts all that conservatism stands for—freedom. There are other points of Romney’s policy that should be of concern to any conservative.

Romney does not wish for less involvement of the United States in foreign nations. Rather, part of his platform is greater involvement in the Arab Spring. In the Middle East, he pledges to “support those individuals and groups that are seeking to instill lasting democratic values and build sturdy democratic institutions that will sustain open societies ….” Adding to the beliefs opposite of conservatism in that statement, Romney eerily shows traces of George Soros in his support of “open societies.” But this is not the end of Romney’s starkly moderate foreign policy. Romney also promises to help Africa, as a whole, by promoting the values of capitalism, good government, and strong militaries. Yes, these all sound good and idealistic, but there exist innumerable barriers to their being successful. None of that takes into the point of meddling in foreign nations’ affairs either, a policy conservatism opposes.

Thus, the conservative movement must not withdraw or slightly disband if Mitt Romney wins. A victory for Romney is only the beginning for the conservative movement. There still is much to be done before America is brought back to her principles of life and liberty.

The conservative movement must not fade into another movement. This is more important for the smaller segments of the movement, such as the Tea Party. The Tea Party has efficiently woken up innumerable citizens, but its task has still not ended. It must serve both as a means to spread the ideals of liberty and counteract the Occupy Movement. Occupy Wall Street, no matter where it is found, will always be based in anger and collectivism. It is focused on smashing windows and throwing Molotov cocktails, rather than non-violent ideals. Considering they don’t deem destruction of property to be terrorism, we must think like them and redefine “non-violence” in order to understand and prepare for the worst.

Education must also be an integral part of the conservative movement. This does not mean “education” in the typical sense (i.e. children sitting in a classroom). Rather, the meaning of “education,” in this sense, entails, literally, educating our fellow man—introducing them to thinkers not brought up in “normal” political discourse (John Locke, Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, etc.), showing them the “truth” of American history (rather than the collectivist and Progressive propaganda purported in the public schools), and teaching them to attempt living as the epitome of individualism (i.e. free, independent, thoughtful, and responsible).

Some will note, at this point, that none of these things relate to politics. This is the case because the conservative movement is not about politics, but about principles and philosophies. Politics shouldn’t be the first goal, but the second. This is the final aim of the conservative movement. It must aim to change the mentality of the population, informing them of the danger we face. Immediately striking at a political solution will only bog down the movement and cause many to falter in their devotion to principles, in the name of utility and political machines.

When analyzing the conservative movement, in following this advice, many will go back to Barry Goldwater as the beginning. While their intentions may be good, this is not far enough. One must go further, beyond the Founding Fathers. It is with the English philosopher John Locke that our “journey” ends. Locke’s ideas of natural rights and government were integral to the Founding Fathers, and the Constitution of the United States. Why did he produce ideas that had repercussions of liberty? In an empirical sense (i.e. required one to truly “know” his intentions), one cannot know. But, it can be reasoned, that he did not start with the goal of freedom. As any philosopher does, he started in the abstract world of thoughts, and then moved from there—eventually ending his intellectual journey in the realm of liberty.

It cannot start at politics, but at principles. After all, one cannot know how long that our political system may endure, but our principles shall endure perpetually.

Christian Lopac | Wabash College | @CLopac