The Twelve Points are a statement of conservative principles, objectives, philosophy, and additional guiding considerations, composed by Karl Born, a young Indianapolis writer and attorney, beginning in early 2008, completed on July 2, 2009. The idea for the Twelve Points, along with several of the points, came from the "Seven Points," an older statement of conservative principles, created by a group of young conservatives at Indiana University, in 2003: Grand Old Cause. 

The purpose of the Twelve Points is to serve as a delivery mechanism for distilled, concentrated conservative thinking, offered in order to return completeness and clarity to popular conservatism, to spread knowledge of the true principles of conservatism throughout the conservative community, and to focus and promote agreement among conservatives. 

Over the past two decades, the conservative movement has lost its uniting sense of direction, which has rendered it confused, frustrated, and impotent. Certain crucial conservative principles and concepts have faded from our common memory and lost their rightful influence and, consequently, our fellow conservatives (including conservative leaders) too often can no longer be relied upon to understand them, to be committed to them, or to apply and advance them in a coherent way. No conservative should be satisfied with the results that this has produced in American public policy. 

The Twelve Points will help to solve this problem, this statement of conservative principles being an instrument by which we may frequently recur to these fundamental principles and keep points of conservative thought freshly in our minds, teach conservative thought to the newer and younger conservatives, and provide all conservatives with a means of together affirming that, yes, we still care about these conservative principles, and conservative principles still define this movement.

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No Ordinary Year

Many people have predicted that the movement that flared up across the continent last year will make a big impact this year.  It will only do so, however, if we change some of our tactics.

This has all happened before.  Most of the parallels that I have heard others note are between 2010 and 1994.  It would be wonderful if 2010 were to play out that way -- and it might.  However, the conservatives of the 104th Congress were defeated in 1995 in a major public relations battle with President Clinton over the budget, and this not only derailed the "Republican Revolution" (and apparently left the conservative members of Congress stunned and confused for the next several election cycles, unwilling or unable to stand for small-government conservative reform) but resulted in Clinton's reelection in 1996.

For the four years following the budget battle, GOP congressional majorities were not only unable to meaningfully reduce government (or even reduce government growth), but somehow were only able to mount a meager defense against the initiatives of Clinton and the Democrats.  For those who do not remember (and with no disrespect intended to those conservative leaders who did everything they believed they could -- political success can be tricky, which is actually the point of this post), that defense was weak, inept, and an embarassment for conservatives.  (Additionally, for those who do not remember, it was for an alternative to this that Republicans turned to the "compassionate conservatism" of the future President Bush -- they just wanted a leader who would stop losing!)

There are many lessons to learn from the way 1995 and 1996 unfolded for congressional conservatives, but two of the larger lessons are the following:

1) Passion is not enough.

We had passion for advancing conservatism in 1994 and 1995, but that did not ensure that we were properly organized (or otherwise prepared) to counter the flurry of attack ads that Democrats ran on television in the December of 1995.  It did not prevent the congressional conservatives (or the "Dittohead Caucus," as some of the GOP freshmen had called themselves) from becoming politically shellshocked.  It did not allow the rest of us, the ordinary conservatives of America, to help those congressional conservatives to recover their senses and return to Washington with renewed confidence, determination, and purpose.

Something certainly can and should come of all of the passion for conservative reform in America right now, but getting excited about the "revolution" that we supposedly have scheduled for this fall is not a plan at all -- and if it is used in lieu of a plan, it will fail.

2) Never stop teaching conservatism.

Even people with strong conservative tendencies do not necessarily know what they need to know in order to be reliable, effective conservatives.  In 1994, quite a few American voters seemed to have had the right idea, but we quickly learned that they were not so familiar with the collected wisdom of conservatism that they could not be misled by liberal arguments and accusations.  (By the end of 1995, Republicans had remarkable difficulty just in convincing Americans that it is not a disaster for "nonessential" government workers to be furloughed while the President and Congress continued to debate the budget.)

I am convinced that even quite a few self-described conservatives do not yet know as much as the success of the conservative movement depends on them knowing.  Will we put a little thought into this now, making preparations for challenges that we, as conservatives, will almost certainly face if conservatives take control of Congress this year, or will we wait until liberal groups have discredited us with defamatory television advertisements?

Hopefully, most conservatives will find the right answer to this question to be obvious.  As far as conservative strategy is concerned, we must not let 2010 be just an ordinary year.