Though not at all well-known, the Conservative Action Project or CAP—headed by former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese—counts among its active participants some of the most recognizable and influential leaders of modern conservatism. Its "Memos for the Movement" are influential in the development of political strategy for organizations that run the length and breadth of the nation.
In its latest missive, CAP outlines what it calls a "Conservative Consensus for 2012," attempting to define the issues on which the nation will be able to return to prosperity and the constitutional principles on which the nation is founded. Coming at a time when conservatives and Republicans are fragmented, spoiling for a fight with President Barack Obama and undecided as to which presidential candidate has the platform that best exemplifies first principles while remaining inside the boundaries of electability, the memo is a useful exploration of what, in the current context, is important.
Setting down markers, the CAP memo offers what those who wrote it call a reaffirmation of "the principles of constitutional limited government and economic freedom" as well as a belief in "strong national security and traditional American values."
Those values are best expressed, says the memo, in four areas "Growth, Family, Strength and Accountability"—which are followed by a series of policy recommendations running from the repeal of Obamacare and a pitch for sound monetary policy, to advocating for religious liberty, defending American sovereignty, and the adoption of a strong balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The challenge ahead for conservatives is to once again convince the American people that the limited-government approach to governance that made Reaganism so popular remains viable in an era when so-called "big government" is eating away at the nation's economic productivity. The conflict in visions between the conservatism advanced in the CAP memo and which is still dominant in the GOP's congressional wing, and the liberalism of the Obama administration—which advances a government-based solution to virtually every problem—has created a gap that is too wide to be bridged by mere bi-partisanship. The upcoming election, therefore, will inevitably force the American people to make a choice about which way they want to go.
There is every reason to believe, as has been the case each time that particular choice has been offered in the post-war era, that the American people opt for the right—and less government—over the left. Taken together, the memo's recommendations underscore the strong Reaganite traditions of American conservatism and present an agenda that is not unattractive, nor will most voters find it threatening. Well inside the mainstream of American political thinking, what the CAP memo and other documents like it propose is something the voters can easily and comfortably embrace—which will help innoculate it as well as the candidates who support it from the attacks that will most assuredly and viciously come from the left.