My first speeding ticket caught up to me driving my mother’s periwinkle Mercury Grand Marquis, the word Babe emblazoned in black and red calligraphy on the front plate, 83 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone. The Kettering cop had tucked himself under the OH-48 overpass on I-675 South and nabbed me as I lurched over a hill nearly a mile away. “Is there a problem, officer?” I actually said that. “Yeah, there’s a problem.” I was sixteen.
My second ticket landed me before a judge who politely listened to my pathetic defense before pulling my license for four months. (She did not believe, or did not care, that the state trooper had told me he wouldn’t have pulled me over had he not had a Fourth of July quota to fill.) I bummed rides off my friend Aaron until he lost his license a month later. Then we both bummed rides from Joey, to whom our parents gave gas money, which we strapping lads blew on Taco Bell and six-packs of IBC Root Beer. When the money was gone, I turned to my girlfriend, the gracious woman I eventually married.
I frequently reflect on these and other follies of my younger and more vulnerable years when I’m night-driving our minivan on vacation, or when I’m running late, or when, on occasion, I’m speeding. What goads me every time is the math. Would I have sped that Independence Day had I realized that my eleven miles-per-hour indulgence would have saved me a measly three minutes over my 20-minute drive? No, less: I could have safely driven five over the limit, which means I sold my license for a paltry six miles-per-hour fling, or one-point-eight minutes. This kind of thinking gets really depressing when counting how much I could have saved on insurance.
Most non-speeders, and even a few lead-footed folks, would conclude from this arithmetic that, as a rule, speeding is idiotic. Ironically, most of the time, speeding gets you nowhere fast. Better, they’ll say, to creep up to a—wait for it—conservative 55 mph and let the cruise do the work.
And there’s the rub. The majority of Ohio conservatives approach politics like non-speeders: rational, safe, and patient. The rest of us are perhaps riskier and impatient—but no less rational. On the contrary, we would say that it’s non-speeders who overlook a crucial dimension that speeders instinctively grasp:
That in politics, as in driving, your most significant gains—and losses—don’t come on the open road, but at the intersections.
The object of a smart speeder isn’t the long stretches of asphalt, but the opportunities that speeding can create between the long stretches. It’s not how fast I drive on the interstate, but how skillfully I navigate the light at Patterson and Woodman, and a dozen others, that determines whether I’m five minutes early or ten minutes late. Losing just a few miles per hour here can mean the difference between blitzing past a string of stopped cars and being one of them. The race isn’t to the destination; it’s to the next red light.
Whether they know it or not, conservatives are in the middle of their own race for “red”—a Republican shade—but far too few are driving like it.
For example, since the last election, there’s one thing I have heard conservatives talk about more than how desperately we need to reclaim the White House in 2016: how unlikely we are to do so. “We’re too late. The Left is too strong, the welfare population too great. Our party is irreversibly RINO, the faithful remnant scattered.” If that’s your persuasion, perhaps resisting would indeed be irrational (although survival instinct might prod you anyway). Far “wiser,” some would say, to sit in traffic with 11.6 million other Ohioans and wait for an establishment to direct you when and where to go.
Unfortunately, these mopes are halfway to turning their worst fear into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it’s because they have not yet learned that if you want to lead, you need to speed.
Political speeders don’t wait for opportunities: they create them. There’s a growing contingent of conservatives in Ohio that has been willfully driving itself into the ground, riskily and impatiently, since Election Day + 1. Are the stakes high? Are the chances slim? All the more reason to speed. And we’ll keep it up, because the harder we work the pedals now—miles from the next major election—the more control we will be able to exert over the inevitable Republican-red light that is coming.
Think of it this way. If intersections are points of conflict en route to a destination (say, Election Day), then each intersection (e.g., primaries, ballot measures, grassroots activity) is an opportunity to put meaningful distance between you and your fellow drivers. Some of these drivers are future teammates; others are potential opponents. Opportunities to take the lead abound—it’s not just scheduled opportunities, like primaries, that will help turn the tide. Each time conservatives show initiative on tackling a social problem, repairing a broken message, or refuting an insidious viewpoint, they add a MPH to their RPMs in the race to influence what shade of Republican-red Ohioans will wear in the next half decade.
This is the race that Ohio Conservative Review is competing in, and we thank our featured contributors, guest writers, and readers for helping us floor it since our launch in May 2013. We would add that speeding, as a metaphor for our effort and energy, is only half our method. The real distinguishing feature of OCR (so we’re told) is closer to reading the traffic patterns rightly, so that we not only speed, but speed strategically. The loudest conservative voices aren’t necessarily the wisest. OCR is here to offer discernment and leadership to conservative messaging and debate.
Every opportunity carries risks. But in the marketplace of ideas in a politically volatile state, the greatest risk is missing an opportunity. Sooner or later, the political field will be set, and the Republican-red light will pop on in a shade and fervency not yet determined. Conservatives had better start speeding now to ensure that when it does, they’ll be in front of it.
Michael Hamilton is the English Department Chair at Dayton Christian High School, where he teaches AP U.S. Government & Politics and Honors American Literature. He is a graduate of Hillsdale College, the owner of Good Comma Editing, LLC, and the Executive Editor and a Co-Founder of OCR.
All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.
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