For decades, conservative commentators and writers have told anyone who would listen that America is going to hell in a handbag.

(An aside: Why do people always go to hell in a handbag?  If I must go to hell, I’d prefer a limousine with a fully stocked bar; some beloved books; a picnic basket overflowing with Reuben sandwiches and Route 11 Potato Chips, and yes, I know all that grease and salad dressing clogs the arteries, but why should I care?  I’m going to hell; Norah Jones on the radio; a witty woman at my side; and a chauffeur who drives three miles an hour, tops.)

James Burnham’s Suicide of the West, John Derbyshire’s We Are Doomed, Pat Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower, Mark Steyn’s After America, and thousands of other books and articles have revealed the damage done to our culture and our republic by the left.  Derided and often slandered by liberals and progressives, these writers bravely protested the rising tides of globalism, multiculturalism, socialism, and Marxism.  For more than four decades, the editors and writers for the magazine you hold in your hands have stood in these same trenches, speaking out against attacks on the family and Christianity, battling those who call for open borders, and advocating for a return to traditional education and Western values.

Despite the warnings of these men and women, liberals have found it all too easy to destroy the bastions of culture defended by conservatives.  Those who championed traditional family values, those who opposed abortion and same-sex marriage, those who wanted immigration laws enforced: These people were often mocked or smeared into obscurity or silence.  From the vicious attacks on Anita Bryant in the 1970’s to today’s Antifa thugs, who shout down or physically assault their opponents, conservatives have taken a beating.  For 50 years, the media and the universities have ripped through the ranks of those defending Western civilization.  From pulpits to classrooms, progressives have made the long march through the institutions and are victorious.  Antonio Gramsci, godfather of this march, would be proud.

Despite having won so many battles, however, today’s progressives could still lose the war.  Here are some reasons why.

First, many conservatives in 2019 are willing to tolerate changes in the culture considered anathema by their grandparents.  Despite the rabid accusations of progressives, most conservatives no longer consider race an important issue.  Many have discarded their opposition to homosexuality, have given up on the war against drugs, and accept a greater role of the federal government.  Conservatives fight against pornography, crude comedians, unpatriotic professional athletes, and “fake news” by changing channels on their televisions and by obtaining their news online rather than from traditional media outlets.

Moreover, the left—not just the extremists, but also the mainstream left—have run out of real issues.  That pantry is empty.  The Democrats have no new agenda except to call for more socialism and open borders.  In regard to the culture, they are reduced to promoting “gender”-free public restrooms and prepubescent transgender rights.  Whether progressives know it or not, the grand banners of 50 and 60 years ago—civil rights, women’s rights, welfare for the poor, real social justice, separating church and state, gay rights—are now furled.

The presidency of Donald Trump—it doesn’t matter what we think of him as a person or as our chief executive—has revealed the barrenness and in some cases the idiocy of the leftist platform.  As evidenced by 2018’s #WalkAway movement, to many Democrats their party appears psychotic in the causes it embraces.  By electing Trump, and by his popularity in many polls despite the ongoing bias against him in the mainstream media, Americans clearly have embarked on a sea change regarding their love for their country and the contempt they hold for those claiming to be their moral and cultural superiors.  The simple fact that Donald Trump won the presidency illustrates the diminished place of progressivism in our culture.

The old conservative prophets of doom and gloom served a high purpose.  They kept lit the torch of what America once was and what she could be again.  They were Jeremiahs pointing out to any who would heed them the dangerous roads our politicians and pundits were navigating.

Now the time has come for conservatives to raise our own banners, to celebrate our beliefs, and to share those ideals with others, particularly the young.  It’s time for us to take the offensive.

How do we accomplish this task?

First, we must exude optimism whenever we discuss conservative ideals.  We must shift from playing doomsayers to prophets proclaiming the possibilities of the future.  We must boldly and brashly declare our love of country, our faith in American values, and the truth that the hard-won rights, liberties, and values of the West remain the best hope for all who cherish such ideas.  We must point out, especially to the young, that we are the counterculture.

Next on the agenda is education.  The left has captured most institutions of higher learning, our public schools, and our mainstream media.  The Internet has given us ways of countering this imbalance, at least with regard to the media, but we must take a more aggressive approach.  We can continue, as we have done for so long, to encourage homeschooling, and private and charter schools.  We can contribute financially to institutions of higher learning that teach Western values.  Those of us with children and grandchildren can teach our own young people history, the past that shaped and made us what we are.  We can introduce them to good literature.  If so inclined, we can volunteer to speak on these subjects in schools, take our young people to historic sites, and form and lead student book clubs.

Rather than engaging in heated conversations with progressives, arguments that neither side can win because neither side has defined its terms, we can ask questions.  I learned the value of this tactic from a talk by the Christian writer and lecturer Os Guinness at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.  During the question and answer period, a young man said that nearly all his professors were liberals and that he felt both scared and frustrated by disagreeing with them in class.  “How do I handle that?” he asked plaintively, to which Guinness firmly replied: “Ask questions.”  He went on to say that asking questions sincerely and respectfully often avoided arguments and heated confrontations.

This advice has proved invaluable to me during discussions with friends and family members.  If someone tells me he supported Hilary Clinton for president, I ask him, without rancor or contempt but with sincerity, “Why?”  If someone tells me he hates Donald Trump, I ask the same question.  If someone tells me he favors open borders, I ask what he foresees as the effects of such a policy.

Not only is asking questions a great defense—and even a sort of Trojan Horse offense—but this approach also allows us to learn whether someone has really thought through a subject or is just spouting off what he has heard from others.

Truth is another weapon in our arsenal.  Leftist heads explode every time the President sends out a tweet, with radical progressives shrieking obscenities and delivering ad hominem attacks.  Why?  Because they can’t face the facts.  When you can’t abide the facts, when your prejudices force you to turn your back on the truth, when you live in a bubble pricked by the lance of reality, you have no other weapons besides blind rage and senseless accusations like “racism” or “fascism.”

A sense of humor is one of the strongest weapons in the conservative arsenal.  Progressives nowadays are notorious for their lack of a sense of humor, their inability to recognize absurdities, so much so that prominent comedians like Jerry Seinfeld have given up performing on college campuses.  Social-justice warriors and other virtue signalers can’t afford a sense of irony or a belly laugh at themselves.  If you can keep your wits about you, duel with words.  If words fail you—and I’ve engaged in debate with some people whose opinions left me speechless—try laughter.

Finally, encourage other conservatives to speak out.  One of my sons works for a software company where he is the lone defender of Donald Trump.  Several others on the mostly liberal staff voted for Trump, but they hide their conservative views and their support for the President from their colleagues.  Indeed, the silence of those who voted for Trump is the main reason his election shocked so many on both the left and the right.

For much of my lifetime, most conservatives have acted as defenders, speaking up for everything from the value of Western Civilization to the vitality of the Constitution.  In part, this defense attitude, reacting instead of initiating, preserving instead of creating, is of course at the heart of what it means to be a conservative.  The progressives come up with some nutty idea—transgender bathrooms, open borders, free social services for noncitizens—and the conservatives once again raise the drawbridge and lower the portcullis.

But maybe, just maybe, now’s the time to come down from the battlements and sally forth to do battle on that broad plain so long controlled by the left.  Maybe the hour has come to throw on shield and armor, and sound the charge.