There must be something in the conservative disposition that prefers defense to offense. I suppose the root word “conserve” is the most obvious clue. Beloved conservative political quotes echo verbs like “preserve,” “protect,” “uphold,” “secure” and “defend,” which sound distinctly less assertive than some words leftist groups use to describe themselves, such as “occupy,” “march,” “overcome,” “action,” “advance,” “liberation," “change,” “move” and “progress.”

Defense may be a winning strategy for the team that’s ahead in the final moments of an athletic contest but it’s suicide for the team that’s behind. Let’s ask ourselves two questions: Are we winning, and is public policy like athletic competition?

I cannot answer yes. As optimistic as I am, it’s far from clear that we are winning more than we are losing. We (and by “we” I mean that happy marriage of conservatives and libertarians who agree on economic policy) have won some great victories but they haven’t yet reversed the growth of the state and the concomitant loss of liberty.

Furthermore, the sports analogy breaks down at a crucial point. There is no game clock, no bottom of the ninth, no sudden death overtime in politics. For in politics, unlike sports, victories and losses are never permanent. They can be erased by whatever happens next.

Every victory is worth celebrating but we can never say, like The Lone Ranger, “my work here is done now.” Have you ever noticed that the Left just stays on offense, no matter what, taking big wins or little ones, whether behind or ahead at the moment?

Here are three ways the Mackinac Center is staying on offense.

  • Worker freedom. Making Michigan a right-to-work state has been perhaps our biggest victory. But we’ve never thought that we can give up, because we know the unions won’t. At every turn it seems that unions and their friends ignore RTW, subvert it, and obstruct workers’ access to its benefits. That’s why we’ve been fighting and winning for workers in court and providing lawmakers with more powerful ideas to make sure that unions retain no special privileges. It’s also why we’ve become a national leader in setting brushfires of freedom in other states where labor reforms are ripening.

  • Parental choice. Ground we once held securely — the right of parents to choose a safer or better public school — is being ferociously attacked by anti-charter school forces who want to herd kids back into the failing conventional public schools they fled. We’re correcting misinformation and making the moral case for choice that lawmakers can use not just to reject retrograde ideas but expand options for kids even more.

  • Taxpayer protection. The Republican-dominated Legislature has cut precious little spending and constantly flirts with backsliding into tax hikes (on the many) and tax favoritism (for a few big companies). Gov. Snyder has called some corporate welfare deals “the heroin drip of state government” and our research proves he was right. Our comprehensive approach killed the state film subsidies and helped pare back a new deal intended to force all taxpayers to support the fashionable data center industry.

In football, defense can score points and even win the game. Such is not the case in the world of policy, where staying on defense merely delays the moment of defeat. At the very least, we can never give our opponents the luxury of winning without a fight.