Too often, Republicans express a purely negative vision of government. This is both politically perilous and intellectually inadequate. Republicans oppose the liberal vision of the role of the state because they support a different, conservative vision. They need to articulate that vision, since many presidential voters will be reluctant to give their trust to leaders who have nothing but contempt for the government they wish to run.
What conservatives should be aiming for is not a slightly less costly liberal welfare state or simply slowing government’s one-way ratchet toward progressivism. They should be more ambitious and more creative: transforming government programs to make them more modern, efficient, responsive and accountable — to have them support and encourage individual initiative, not replace it.
Conservatives are rightly proud of our Constitution, yet many of them are disdainful of our government. But the Constitution created our system of government, and our goal in political life should be to reform that government back into one we can be proud of again.
Understanding government in this way, and taking the steps necessary to enable it to work better and therefore regain the trust of the American people, is a worthy calling. And a deeply conservative one, too.