LARRY DOWNING/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom

LARRY DOWNING/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom

President Obama’s hour-long lecture to the American people Tuesday was notable for what was not included: the assertion a new progressive wave had swept over our country.  Last year, many in the consulting class warned America had turned a corner, and they urged conservatives to moderate their principles in pursuit of electoral victory.

After a year of policy defeats on guns, amnesty and cap-and-trade, President Obama’s former press secretary Robert Gibbs declared 2013 the “lost year for the president.”  While our President may be lost and rudderless, the country is not without visionary leaders.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) did not bother responding to the President’s liberal laundry list; rather he put forth an unapologetically conservative and positive agenda that spoke to “those Americans who may feel they have been forgotten by both political parties.”

Lee continued:

Those individuals and families who work hard, play by the rules, balance their budgets, honor the Golden Rule … and don’t understand why their government in Washington can’t do the same.

Indeed, there is a very real sense among Americans that the game is rigged against them.  But it is not, as President Obama suggested, “massive shifts in technology” that are harming middle class America; instead, it is a proliferation of protected classes in Washington.

To be clear, it isn’t the mere existence of lobbyists that pose a threat to the American Dream.  The threat comes when they use their influence – access, money, etc. – to tilt the playing field. Lee views this corrosive behavior as one of the principal causes of the “inequality crisis”:

…cronyist privilege at the top, where political and economic insiders twist the immense power of the federal government to profit at the expense of everyone else.

This is the threat of an ever-growing government. As government grows, so does its influence over our day-to-day lives. For those in the protected class, the government’s influence can be shaped and molded, and frequently turned into a profitable venture.  Witness the most recent iteration of the so-called farm bill.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, during the first nine months of 2013, more than 300 companies and organizations registered as lobbyists to work on the Senate’s farm bill.  During that same time, Big Agriculture spent $111.5 million on lobbying, which was more than the defense industry and labor unions spent on their priorities. Their sustained, cash-infused efforts led to this headline from Bloomberg: “Farm Bill Fruitful For Giants.”

Most Americans cannot marshal the lobbying resources of the “giants” to fight back.  Instead, as Lee notes, the government continually “takes rights and opportunities away from the American people and gives them instead to politicians, bureaucrats, and special interests.”

That may be why Gallup just found “a record-low percentage of registered voters, 46%, now say the U.S. representative in their own congressional district deserves re-election.”  To win the trust and faith of the American people, politicians must present a bold vision.  I believe conservatives have a real chance to do exactly that, and so does Lee:

 We have a new generation of leaders in Washington with positive, innovative ideas – thoughtful policy reforms to, as my friend Senator Ted Cruz says –‘Make D.C. listen.’  Reforms to help poor families work their way into the middle class, to help middle-class families start to get ahead, and to level the playing field and put corporate and political insiders back to work for the rest of us.

Americans would welcome an agenda that prioritizes opportunity over cronyism, and once the consulting class urges principled action in pursuit of electoral victory, we’ll know we’ve won.

Michael A. Needham is the chief executive officer of Heritage Action for America.  Learn more about Heritage Action and get involved.