As many Republicans finish basking in their victory over their Democratic relatives they only see at Christmastime, we’re looking at the final week of 2016. More importantly, we’re looking at the final four weeks of the Obama administration with new information that needs to be applied going further, particularly for conservatives.

For some of us, the future is about building on the successes of 2016 and applying our newfound DC dominance towards solving problems. For a number of stalwart conservatives who are still skeptical about what the future holds, there are lessons to learn and challenges to address in order to steer the Trump administration and GOP Congress in the right direction.

Some of the lessons from 2016 are obvious and won’t be covered here such as Obamacare (just repeal it), terrorism (do what it takes to stop it), gun rights (protect them), and mainstream media (don’t trust them). Other lessons need more focus if we’re going to have a productive 2017. Here are the top 7 lessons to heed.

Stick to our guns on abortion

The narrative of pro-life versus pro-choice has been shifted. We’re still addressing our movement with the same basic language, but the left is now pushing “reproductive rights” over “choice” because they simply couldn’t get around the idea that the baby must be considered in choices. In many ways, this leftward push towards politically correcting their narrative worked against them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll continue to lose.

Abortion is a cultural issue that has seeped into politics. It’s imperative for the pro-life movement to stay with the message of life beginning in the womb and not after birth. This stance will allow for more states to ban abortions at 20- or 24-weeks and will enable us to push those protections even closer to conception in the future. All we need to do is let science meld with emotion. This is political, but it must be fought on a cultural level if we’re going to continue to make up ground.

Democrats won’t be complacent again

The certainty the Democrats felt about winning the Presidency and the Senate left them absolutely shocked on election night. They didn’t lose so badly because they didn’t have enough supporters. They lost because in the key states there was enough complacency to prevent them from getting out the vote the way Obama did in 2008 and 2012.

It won’t happen again, at least not for a long time. They will come out hard in 2018. 2020 could be a bloodbath if Trump isn’t successful. They have the ammunition they need to get out the vote. They were overconfident; how many Democrats didn’t vote because they were so certain of victory? That will be the rallying cry going forward, so Republicans need to get their people out with as much fervor.

Free trade has enemies in every corner

It was once safe to assume that the Republican Party was the party of free trade. That simply isn’t so anymore as many party-line followers hear the message of fair trade and believe that it’s the new game plan. Fiscal conservatives who believe in the free market economy have to fight both the GOP and the Democrats to achieve the business growth and financial environment necessary for future prosperity.

Now more than ever, trade must flourish. It’s worrisome that so many in both major parties are fighting against this. It’s up to conservatives to hammer the message back in place before we start seeing the cost-expanding effects of “fair” trade.

Immigration is a winning issue

Remember that taboo of illegal immigration, walls, and deportations that allegedly helped doom Mitt Romney in 2012? Trump’s message was even harsher and it worked.

Illegal immigration is a major problem that most Americans can acknowledge. While more Americans lean in favor of some variation of amnesty, 2016 proved that it’s not important enough of an issue to prevent candidates from winning. Particularly when we tie it to the two biggest hot buttons – economy and terrorism – we’ll be able to continue to fight open borders, amnesty, and other liberal immigration principles without fear of losing elections.

Smaller-government needs further prioritization

Killing some regulations, pulling back on the reins in some departments, and eliminating most of Barack Obama’s executive orders is a good place to start, but doing so will only bring us back a decade when government overreach was still rampant. It will take a much more pronounced attack on big government to make a dent which is why I’m now a Federalist.

What’s worse is that many of the proposals coming from our future leaders in DC are pushing for bigger government. From a trillion dollar infrastructure plan to expansion of certain very expensive programs and initiatives, we have our work cut out for us. Reducing the size of government hasn’t been a priority since the last Federalist President, Ronald Reagan. We need to bring it back to the forefront quickly or continue to suffer through a two-party system where both sides increase budgets, bureaucracy, and power in DC.

Subsidies aren’t necessary for buying votes

One of the most important lessons that was forgotten by many is that subsidies don’t win elections the way they once did. Ted Cruz demonstrated that in the Iowa caucus by winning while being the only candidate against ethanol subsidies while Marco Rubio lost his home state of Florida while defending his sugar subsidies.

Now that we see this truth, it’s time to strike before everyone completely forgets. Subsidies are created to buy votes in local areas and they persist out of fear for losing votes. 2016 debunked the second part of the myth. That means we need to cut now.

The alt-right is a growing problem

Did the alt-right help Trump win? Absolutely. He brought out a slew of new voters in both the primaries and the general election, many of whom probably aren’t even aware that they embrace alt-right concepts.

Here’s the thing, and I say this knowing that it will be an unpopular statement to some who read this. The alt-right helped Trump, but they are not a positive influence on the GOP or American politics. The surface-level appeal that keeps them going makes their ranks easily manipulated away from conservative principles. The term “alt-right” is unfortunate because in many ways they have far-left views intermingled with the views that are considered far-right. This makes for a dangerous combination for any party that wants to address issues beyond the emotional surface.

2016 was a good year for Republicans and a potentially good year for conservatives. There’s hope, but let’s make certain that hope doesn’t turn into the same complacency that doomed the Democrats. If we don’t, we could be looking at quick reversals in 2018 and 2020.

Hate is a real issue. Americans have plenty of it. They demonstrate it all the time. The difference between hate today and hate in the recent past is that it’s now manifesting in the form of hoaxes perpetrated mostly by the left. They don’t want to be seen as hateful, so they turn their own hate into “clever” ruses to paint the right as the “real “haters.

Fake news is a real issue. As an obsessive consumer of political media, I’m a fake news hipster. I’ve been calling it out since before it was cool.

Today, we’re seeing the two collide in spectacular fashion. They’ve always had a secondary relationship in that hoaxes would be perpetrated and the media would investigate and report if necessary, but the boundary that separated them has collapsed. Today, the media’s standard operating procedure is to report the hoax first, investigate (or maybe not) later.

Why did this happen? Did the media become suddenly more gullible? No. This is willful. Ever since about a month and a half before the election, mainstream media started their “ready, fire, aim” stance on hate hoaxes because they realized they needed it to propagate their narrative agenda. They’ve learned two important things: falling for a hoax will not decrease ratings/readership, and they can source each other rather than investigate in order to justify their choices.

Here are four major hate hoaxes that have been reported in the last 24 hours:

In all four cases, there were reasons for the media to doubt the stories. In all four cases, the narrative of white and/or conservative and/or Trump-supporting and/or bigoted “people of privilege” persecuted and/or harassed and/or discriminated against some variation of minority. In all four cases, the hoax was reported before confirmed and later it was revealed by law enforcement or conservative media that we had all been duped.

Here’s the core of the problem. Mainstream media has a narrative agenda that has failed miserably. They did everything they could to hand the White House and Senate to the Democrats. In the past, that’s all that needed to happen; if the media united behind a cause, they could bend the will of the people. In the case of the 2016 election, their agenda backfired, so they now have two choices. They could learn their lessons and return to a bygone day when reporters actually reported and commentators made absolutely certain their perspectives would not be confused with news.

Predictably, mainstream media has chosen option two. They’re doubling down. The lesson they think they learned from their mistake is that they can’t allow a sliver of doubt to creep in. They actually think they were too easy on Donald Trump. They think they didn’t push enough of their narrative on Senate races. They think they now need to promote their agenda in full force, working overtime if necessary.

They’re going to get away with it, too, if we let them. Nobody calls out the original source. All it takes is for one media outlet to report something as real and the rest will jump on the bandwagon rather than investigate if for themselves. It’s not that they believe it to be true. It’s that they hope for it to be true. That’s enough. They’ve lost their way.

As conservatives, we need to take two stances. We need to call out the media when hate is faked and we need to call out the real haters. We’re not innocent in this. Many conservatives will turn a blind eye or even mount a feeble defense when real bigotry or hatred is present. To stay consistent, we have to stick with the truth regardless of whose side is to blame. The only way we can defeat the liberal media narrative agenda is if we take the high road every time.

Americans supporting candidates other than Donald Trump had 17 months to make the case to America why he shouldn’t be the next President of the United States. Based upon the rules set forth in the Constitution and subsequent election laws passed over the last 220 years that every candidate agreed to when they initiated their campaigns, Trump won the election. This matter is settled with one viable exception.

Before we get to that exception, let’s discuss the things that are not exceptions to the rules. They are relevant because they’re currently being used by the left in an attempted to sabotage Trump’s victory. As a proud member of the new Federalist Party, it disgusts me that so many Democrats are attempting to invoke the safeguards set forth by our founders to subvert the powers of the electoral college and prevent Trump’s ascension to office.

Fear of ridicule, harassment, persecution, or physical harm are not valid exceptions for electors to change their votes. It’s a sad state of affairs that we have to point this one out, but that’s the tactic that many Democrats are using today. Attempting to bully electors isn’t just immoral. It’s against the law, but it’s worse than that. It’s an action that eats away at the foundation of this nation.

Admiration of Hollywood celebrities and their “enlightened” perspectives is not a valid exception for electors to change their votes. The ridiculous video many of them put out in a plea for electors to change their votes is allowable and almost admirable… if you forget that it’s a ridiculous video. While I’m skeptical about its actual core intention, if we take it at face value, it’s still pretty silly. Again, the attempt would be admirable in a way because it’s a protected expression of an opinion, but in this case their opinion is futile. Even if their message succeeded, it wouldn’t change the result of the election.

Lastly, mass media anti-Constitution propaganda pushed from the highest office in the land and spread through the Democrats’ mainstream media minions is not a valid exception for electors to change their votes. We are a constitutional republic with an electoral college safeguard in place to make sure the worst-case scenario doesn’t happen. Trump may be the worst-case scenario in the minds of many Democrats just as President Obama was the worst-case scenario in the minds of many Republicans, but neither represented a true existential threat to America. Obama did damage, but we can recover. Trump will do some good and some bad, but it’s unlikely that he will single-handedly propel us into the abyss.

That brings us to the viable exception. Of the pieces of the Constitution that were debated by both sides, the electoral college was the most agreeable. It was called “excellent if not perfect” for one important reason. Their fear in the 18th century is possibly a relevant fear today. They believed that the electors could have the discernment necessary to make certain the next President wasn’t planted by a foreign power.

In The Federalist #68, Alexander Hamilton wrote:

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one querter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention. They have not made the appointment of the President to depend on any preexisting bodies of men, who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but they have referred it in the first instance to an immediate act of the people of America, to be exerted in the choice of persons for the temporary and sole purpose of making the appointment. And they have excluded from eligibility to this trust, all those who from situation might be suspected of too great devotion to the President in office. No senator, representative, or other person holding a place of trust or profit under the United States, can be of the numbers of the electors. Thus without corrupting the body of the people, the immediate agents in the election will at least enter upon the task free from any sinister bias.

In short, the founders didn’t simply want to prevent a bad choice for President. They wanted to prevent corruption in any form but specifically corruption by foreign powers. While some might make the case that Trump has too many connections to Russia, it’s hard to imagine that he’s an actual foreign conspirator planted in office to bring down the country. I could easily make a case that Hillary Clinton was even more likely to be influenced by foreign powers had she been elected, but she thankfully was not. With that said, I have called on conservative media to help sort this whole Russia business out.

If electors truly believe that Trump is a Russian plant who will intentionally bring down the nation on orders from Vladimir Putin, they should exercise their rights as electors to prevent it. If they believe the more likely scenario that he’s a patriotic American who wants to forge a good relationship with Russia, then that’s simply not viable grounds to change their vote. For the sake of as smooth of a transition of power as possible, the electors should vote for whoever their state’s voters selected as President. The final tally should be 306 to Trump, 232 to Clinton.

Update: As if on cue, leftist-operated Facebook is turning to liberal “fact checkers” in their quest to quash the scourge of free speech fake news. As you read the article, keep this in mind because the drumbeat is getting louder every day. Folks, if conservatives don’t get louder, we’re going to get drowned out. Never underestimate the ability of leftist propaganda to turn good people to the left.

Liberal media is running with so many narratives right now that it’s getting hard to keep up. Russia rigged the election. Obama is leaving the economy in pristine condition. James Comey rigged the election. Snowflakes are being triggered by anything associated with Trump. Fake news rigged the election. Trump is going to take us to war against China, Iran, Mexico, North Korea, and everyone else (other than Russia). The electoral college needs to unrig the election.

Just when we thought that the floodgates of leftist propaganda was fully open during election season, the media has somehow opened them up even further. The sad reality is that if we, the conservative media and activists, don’t do something to stop it, their plan is going to work. We’re going to experience a liberal revival based on sheer brainwashing that hasn’t been seen since the Reagan era.

Things are actually much worse than they were in the 80s because now we have the internet and social media. Both venues are dominated by leftist ideology; for every conservative blog or news outlet out there, the left has a dozen to counter them. They have the advantage on social media sites, not because there aren’t enough conservatives using them but because their “algorithms” favor liberal perspectives.

The original reason I started my conservative news aggregator is the same reason I love writing for DaTechGuy. Conservatism needs more voices and it needs those voices to be louder in order to break through the false narratives perpetuated by the left. We are fighting a two-front war. On one hand, we have the known enemies on the left with liberal politicians, media, and individuals spreading their agenda. On the other hand, we have RINOs in office who are pushing the GOP to adopt more “moderate” policies, most of which would be considered outright liberal just a few years ago.

The modern conservative movement is in danger. While most of you are likely immune to the swarm of narratives the left is pushing right now, we have to acknowledge that most Americans are not. Just because they don’t trust the media doesn’t mean that the media doesn’t affect their worldview. We are all being bombarded with stories on television and the internet that tell us everything is going to fall apart with the GOP in control of the government. This “chaos strategy” works. As a strange man once pointed out, if you tell lies often enough, they become the truth.

We cannot be lazy. We cannot become complacent. We definitely cannot spend another moment basking in our election victories because the left is already hard at work trying to reverse them. They want to see big gains in 2018. They want to see bigger gains in 2020. To accomplish this, they will paint America as a nasty place that’s falling apart because of the Republicans. More importantly, they’ll blame conservative philosophies for every bad incident, herding as many Americans as possible into embracing their liberal ideology.

I have to do my part to stop this. YOU have to do your part as well. No, I’m not talking to everyone who’s reading this. Some people simply don’t have the time to invest into a political project and are lucky to have the time to even read the occasional article. There’s no fault assigned to those who are unable to help. On the other hand, those of you who have a voice need to make it louder. Those of you who can build a voice should start doing so now.

It doesn’t require starting a blog or a YouTube channel, though that would be nice. It can be done through word of mouth, social media, letters to the editors of local publications, or comments left in any of these venues. We need to call out the left’s lies. We need to highlight the right’s goals and perspectives.

Today is the day that conservatives need to realize the war is not over. We may have won some elections, but we’re still the underdogs. The left has more resources and advantages. We need to fight their propaganda even more tenaciously than we fought during the election. Otherwise, the gains that were made in 2016 can be easily wiped away in 2018 and 2020.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in the way the abortion debate has been framed by the left through their mainstream media proxies. What was once a battle about “choice” has now been retooled to be about “reproductive rights.” This is going to become louder once Ohio Governor John Kasich decides which abortion ban he signs, which will likely happen this week.

Personally, I’d like to see him sign the Heartbeat Bill, but as long as he signs one of them, the conversation will reignite around the concept of reproductive rights. This is usually frowned upon by conservatives as it touches on a point that we hold dear: personal liberties. We don’t like that the left is using one of our tools against us. Rather than attempting to shift the conversation away from this talking point, we should embrace it.

It has become the most powerful weapon used by the pro-abortion crowd because the conservative perspectives surrounding personal liberties resonate with the majority, even Democrats (once you clear away the minutia they use to cloud the issue of freedoms). They are pulling at our political heartstrings when they make the claim that any attempts to take away a woman’s right to an abortion is an attack on her freedoms. For this reason, the pro-life movement has turned to other methods for fighting their battles: religion, post-abortion depression, touching stories from abortion survivors, and scientific technicalities are just some of the tools pro-lifers use to wage war on abortion.

We’ve allowed the left to co-opt our most powerful weapon and use it against us. This needs to be reversed. Abortion is absolutely about personal liberties. There is no better argument than protection of freedoms and our God-given rights when combating the plague of abortion. All we need to do is focus on the other side of the coin. Just as pro-abortion groups tout the individual liberties of pregnant women by focusing on reproductive rights, pro-lifers should engage in the same way by hammering the rights of the preborn.

Yes, babies have rights, too. The question of when the baby gets rights is the only thing in question. The left will tell us that up to a certain point, a preborn baby is simply a conglomeration of cells that are actually still part of the woman, so their existence falls under the jurisdiction of her individual rights. Just as she can choose to have her tonsils removed, the left wants us to believe she has the right to have the unwanted grouping of cells in her uterus removed.

Science is on our side. The reason the Heartbeat Bill has its name is not symbolic. The bill bans abortions once a heartbeat can be detected by the doctor. This happens around the six-week point following conception. It may be hard to convince people on the fence that the standard ban on abortions held by most states of 24-weeks needs to be brought up to the six-week mark, but knowing that the preborn baby’s heart is already beating at that point is a powerful argument for life.

When does a preborn baby acquire the rights of every American to be allowed to live? For some of us, the answer is at conception. For others, it’s at a certain point between conception and birth. The key for this battle is to understand that if Americans are made aware of the science behind reproduction, the left’s narrative of “reproductive rights” can be quickly shifted in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans to be about a preborn baby’s right to live.

The left is fighting a losing battle if we take the battle to them instead of tiptoeing around the other strategies that we’ve created. Modern science allows us to get up close and personal with preborn babies. Share those videos. Share the stories of how preborn babies feel pain, dream dreams, and experience emotions in ways very similar to how they act once they’re born. There’s a reason that the left is so against simple measures such as the burial of aborted fetuses. Their narrative falls apart once a preborn human is humanized in the eyes of the masses.

With the assumption that pro-life judges are about to fill the benches of courts around the country, including the current and upcoming open Supreme Court seats, the pro-life movement has never had a better opportunity to move the needle. We can save millions of babies who haven’t even been conceived yet. To do this, we need to stop renouncing our best weapon and take it back from the left. Personal liberties resonate. We simply need to remind people that preborn babies deserve liberties as well.

Media outlets across the country have been buzzing about “fake news” being a problem ever since the Democrats’ plethora of losses on election day. This problem didn’t pop up because of the election. It was rampant well before the first batch of candidates announced they were running in early 2015. In fact, it’s been around since the early days of the internet. The fact that it has such a prominent spotlight on it today is a bitter response by the left to point a finger at anyone other than Hillary Clinton and Democratic leaders.

That’s not to say that the problem isn’t real. As someone who reads every headline from over a hundred sources every day for my conservative news aggregator, I can verify that fake news has been an actual problem for a long time. It comes in different forms, the most prominent being the spinning of minor news into apocalyptic click-bait headline writing by sources desperate for advertising dollars, but the core problem is universal: the only way for smaller publishers to compete with bigger ones is to be very aggressive with their bullhorns and quite loose with the truth.

The biggest problem is that it works. Medium-sized sites like Salon and Conservative Tribune are building little empires from it. Bigger outlets like Buzzfeed and Breitbart are getting rich from it. While I’m personally not crazy about the technique, it’s effective and as a small-government Federalist I will defend their right to present their version of the news any way they wish. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a problem.

Our society has been conditioned to search for solutions whenever there’s a problem to be solved. That’s natural, but for whatever reason most have missed the obvious one. It shouldn’t require sites like Facebook or Google to censor news from this site or that one, though as private businesses it’s their prerogative to do so if they wish. There’s no need for people to publish blacklists to help “victims” avoid the embarrassment of sharing stories that aren’t completely true. It definitely doesn’t require the government to step in and decide what to consider fake news and what to consider real. That’s a form of censorship that would take us all down a very dark road.

The solution is simple. Just like we should let the business world work out its problems through free market capitalism, we should allow the media to work out its own problems with free speech journalism. Let the media police the media. Let the people make decisions based upon trust and research. Just as someone can choose whether or not to buy at Walmart or Target, they can also choose whether they want to read their news on the New York Times or Infowars.

Sites like Newsbusters and Media Matters work the “truth beat” for their respective ideologies. Newsbusters points out the flaws of mainstream media and leftist media propaganda. Media Matters highlights every conservative perspective and tries to spin it as evil. That’s free speech journalism. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Instead of trying to find solutions to the fake news problem, the media needs to police itself and the people need to be discerning. Just as “caveat emptor” has been a call of prudence for consumers, perhaps “inspectoris discernerem” should be the rallying cry for news consumers to be more careful with what they read and share.

Of all of Donald Trump’s cabinet decisions, Secretary of State has been the most contentious. All of the four or five remaining candidates have been attacked to some degree, including a barrage of attacks on Mitt Romney from within the Trump camp itself. All of the four or five candidates have long histories of political experience, though only John Bolton has extensive experience talking to foreign leaders (General David Petraeus interacted with foreign military leaders, but that’s not the same thing and partially irrelevant for Secretary of State).

Is it possible to hit the reset button? One of the best things about Donald Trump being President is that the old rules no longer apply. He can select someone outside of the DC inner circle and justify it. Secretary of State more than any other major cabinet decision can benefit from selecting an outsider. The co-author of The Art of the Deal should know this better than anyone. It’s easier to train a great negotiator on the nuances of foreign affairs than to train a politician in the skills of negotiating. After all, we’re the United States. We should be working towards making the best possible deals that benefit everyone, especially us.

All of the current considerations for Secretary of State come with major baggage while having minimal upsides. Romney has the most negotiating experience and has seen this put to great use during his careers in both public and private circles, but he’s scorned by a large chunk of the people who helped get Trump elected in the first place. Bolton is very old school, and while he’s known as a free-thinker, he’s also known to go off the rails from time to time. That’s a trait that Trump doesn’t need in his top diplomat. Petraeus made some horrendous decisions in his days in public life. He should not be rewarded with more responsibility just because he’s done with probation for releasing secret government information carelessly. Rudy Giuliani showed signs throughout the campaign of being well beyond his prime. He wasn’t sharp in many of his speeches and does not appear to be physically capable of the grueling travel schedule a Secretary of State requires. Bob Corker is a Democrat.

While any of these choices would be upgrades from John Kerry, they don’t quite enter the same arena as Alexander Haig, for example. In today’s geo-political maelstrom, we need an Alexander Haig.

Certainly there’s someone else within Trump’s vision who can meet all the criteria. The Secretary of State must be able to communicate the message and act in lieu of the President of the United States in foreign affairs. They need to be easily respected by foreign leaders. They need the negotiating skills that can prevent Iran Nuclear deals from even reaching a point of agreement until it’s clear that the benefits are not lopsided against us. Most importantly, they need to see the world from a perspective that aligns with the President’s vision. None of the current candidates cover all of these criteria well.

I’m not going to throw out names, though I have several in mind. If I had Trump’s ear, I would, but there’s no point in speculating for the sake of speculating. At this point, the best we can hope for is that the President-elect continues his search and is presented with better options than the four or five finalists being discussed today. They are all B-listers at best.