We need reformation, not stagnation
The best we can hope for when we adopt a defensive stance is stagnation, but what we actually get is further decline. We must instead be about reform.
What have conservatives actually conserved? If you look around and observe culture, society and government, the answer is "not much, if anything." A friend of mine wrote this on X:
Modern conservatives only conserve the last liberal victory. They both are going the same direction but the conservatives say, "Go slower."
This is because most conservatives have no positive vision for society. They merely react to liberals.
This is very similar to the famous William F. Buckley quote from the 1950's:
"A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it."
There is good to this mentality. When Leftists push forward bad or destructive policy or cultural shifts, it is wise for conservatives to stand in the way. But it is not nearly enough to oppose further change. The best we can hope for when we adopt a defensive stance is stagnation, but what we actually get is further decline. We must instead be about reform. You cannot score unless you have the ball.
There are two parts of the conservative movement that understand this: The anti-abortion movement and the gun-rights movement. The anti-abortion movement has been chipping away at "abortion rights" for fifty years. The gun rights movement, instead of only opposing further restrictions on gun ownership, actively promotes reforms like "constitutional carry" and "stand your ground" laws.
But in many other areas, we either simply oppose additional leftward drift or (worse) we move in the same direction more slowly. George W. Bush gave us a brand new federal entitlement program with prescription drug benefits. Donald Trump had absolutely no fiscal discipline whatsoever and even demanded Democrats make the pandemic relief spending package even larger in December 2020.
There are occasional burps, such as the Republican Congress looking to abolish federal agencies (such as the Department of Education) or devolve federal power back to the states in the 1990's. Newt Gingrich got himself into a lot of hot water (though most of the attacks on him were deeply dishonest) when he said that the Health Care Financing Administration (which he called a "centralized command bureaucracy") would "wither on the vine" when a people voluntarily left it for a better, more market-based alternative.
Many "conservatives" of today are even worse: Abandoning principle completely and basing their entire political brand on absolute loyalty to one man:
It doesn't matter how "conservative" (a meaningless term) Chip Soy's "voting record" is. He's a political hack with horrible judgment and character. He has never accomplished anything of significance in his life and committed the ultimate act of betrayal by going against Donald Trump and the America First movement.
He's a disgrace to Texas and isn't even worthy of being dogcatcher.
What exactly was Chip Roy's crime? He endorsed Ron DeSantis for President, thereby incurring the wrath of The Exalted Donald Trump, peace be upon him. The idea that supporting anyone other than Trump (peace be upon him) is a betrayal of "America First" is laughable. America First existed well before Donald Trump (peace be upon him) was ever born, and will exist long after he is gone. There is a name for such fanatical devotion to a particular figure: Idolatry.
Yes. Idolatry. Wrapping your entire identity around loyalty to one man is not principle, much less a desire to actually help your country or improve government and culture. It is idolatry. Supporting Trump is fine: He did deliver significant conservative policy: Protecting due process, rolling back Obama-era regulations on business, signing an economy-boosting tax cut, and defending religious freedom among others. But condemning anyone who supports another Republican as a "traitor" or worse, and the obsessive devotion to one man that drives that statement, is utterly wicked idolatry.
The conservative movement needs to be better. We need to be about reform, reducing the size of government and cutting spending. Culturally, we need to move back toward pro-family policies, eliminating incentives for illegitimacy, and working to reduce the divorce rate (eliminating no-fault divorce laws would help) and opposing every form of sexual immorality. Constantly playing defense is why we lose. We certainly should not jettison principle for the idolatrous devotion to one man, no matter who it is.