Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who has a strong tea party base, told a Heritage Foundation
audience in Washington on Tuesday: "Anger is not an agenda. And outrage, as a habit, is not even conservative."
"Especially in the wake of recent controversies, many conservatives are more frustrated with the establishment than ever before," Lee said. "And we have every reason to be. But however justified, frustration is not a platform."
Lee may have been thinking about voter backlash in Utah
over the government shutdown in which Republicans bore the brunt of the blame.
Speaking at length, Lee recalled the distance conservatism had journeyed and its guiding ethos:
"American conservatism, at its core, is about gratitude and cooperation and trust, and above all hope," Lee said. "It is also about inclusion. Successful political movements are about identifying converts, not heretics."
Citing Russell Kirk and Edmund Burke, Lee said that conservative convictions need to fit the times.
He described America today as confronting a three-way crisis of opportunity: poverty, middle-class insecurity, and cronyism at the top "where political and economic elites unfairly profit at everyone else's expense."
Lee asserted that the Republican agenda needs to "tackle these three crises head on." He sounded upbeat about possibly pulling together the various conservative streams.
"Grassroots and establishment, conservatives and moderates, libertarians and traditionalists, interventionists and non-interventionists, economic conservatives and social conservatives: All are part of our movement, and all are vital to our success — so all should be welcome in this debate," Lee said.
Conservatives need to put forth a winning agenda comprised of a comprehensive anti-poverty policy; protecting the interests of Main Street against the "ever-expanding special-interest state," and championing the welfare of the working and middle class.
He said conservatives "have to do more than pick a fight. We have to win a debate. And to do that, we need more than just guts. We need an agenda."
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