Commentary Magazine


Mitch McConnell Urges Conservatives to Stick to Principles Over Popularity

Two years ago, the conservative movement looked like it was at the beginning of a long period of unpopularity. Sen. Mitch McConnell, addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference today, could barely hide his excitement at how quickly the movement had accomplished a comeback. “It isn’t always easy, he said. “And that’s why we need to remember this moment.”

The theme of his speech was “popularity” versus “principles.” By sticking to conservative principles, the movement was able to regain popularity, argued McConnell.

“One of the most important lessons of the past two years … never confuse what’s popular with what’s right,” said McConnell. “If our conservative principles are universal, then they’re right for all people, all time, no exceptions. Popular or unpopular, we’ll stand for what we believe in.”

And then: “We didn’t swear an oath to uphold whatever’s popular. We swore an oath to uphold the Constitution.”

For those who still didn’t get the point, McConnell added later: “Our goals should be to uphold our principles not our popularity,” and “We’re not here to be popular, we’re here to advance the conservative cause.”

Message received. The conservative comeback is a prime example of how quickly things change in politics. It’s clear now that conservatives who moved to the left back in 2008 chose the losing side, and the ones who stuck to their principles even when times were uncertain are now back on top.