As the 2012 holiday season reaches its high point, we seem to be confronted with so much sadness. We have just witnessed a massacre of innocents that is biblical in its horror.

The Associated Press captured the “subdued mood on the last holiday shopping weekend” before Christmas Day:

Christmas shoppers thronged malls and pounced on discounts but apparently spent less this year, their spirits dampened by concerns about the economy and the aftermath of shootings and storms.

Talk about more than just the usual job worries to cloud the mood: Confidence among U.S. consumers dipped to its lowest point in December since July amid rising economic worries, according to a monthly index released Friday.

 Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at NPD Inc., a market research firm with a network of analysts at shopping centers nationwide, estimates customer traffic over the weekend was in line with the same time a year ago, but that shoppers seem to be spending less.

"There was this absence of joy for the holiday," Cohen said. "There was no Christmas spirit. There have been just too many distractions."

This holiday season comes at a time when conservatives are painfully aware of how badly they lost the argument in 2012. They were unable to convince the majority of the American people that a vision of a self-reliant citizenry with limited government and a system of free enterprise is best for all of us.

The year just ending is particularly distressing for women who embrace ideals of personal responsibility and small government. President Obama carried women by 11 points by convincing a significant percentage of us that what we need is cradle to grave government intervention in our lives. How on earth did we lose to such a dreary vision?

Conservative Member of the U. K.’s Parliament Daniel Hannan recently lost a debate at the Oxford Union to Dr. Cornel West, the lefty U.S. college professor. Hannan’s observations on why he lost have relevance to my question:

The reason [West] won – the reason Occupy types generally win before student audiences – is that he successfully presented himself as a defender of ordinary people against oligarchs. This is how most Lefties think of themselves, and I don’t doubt their sincerity. The curious thing, though, is that their policies, in effect if not intention, end up privileging vested interests over the general population.

This is most obvious when it comes to taxes, subventions and nationalisations. But it is equally true of, say, the boondoggles which push up electricity bills to subsidise a handful of wind farmers. Or the health and safety laws which sustain a state bureaucracy while destroying real jobs. Or the multiculturalism whose true purpose is to remunerate a class of local government employees. Or the EU regulations, disguised as consumer protection measures, which are designed to advantage favoured producers over their rivals.

The beneficiaries of these policies, being human, are just as prone to greed as any venture capitalist. …What is particular to capitalism is that it harnesses acquisitiveness to useful ends. In a market system, you accrue wealth by providing a service to others, not by sucking up to commissars or kings.

In 2013, we must devote ourselves to finding a way to make our case. I have a dreadful feeling that an abysmal economy will do some of this for us. But we must nevertheless learn from 2012.  

Let us remember also that this holiday season does not begin more darkly than any other in our history. One Christmas that didn't look very promising, by the way, ended up giving birth to American liberty! We’ve been getting out of jams since people first landed on these shores 400 years ago, and with good will and cheer and a belief that there is something more important than our own small lives, we will continue to do so.

And, by the way, IWF will begin the all-important process of getting out of our (temporary) wilderness with an all-star panel on Jan. 16.

The panel is headlined "Women in the Wilderness: Charting a New Path Foward."

The moderator is author and American Enterprise Institute Resident Fellow Christina Hoff Sommers.

Panelists are Sabrina Schaeffer, IWF's executive director; Karlyn Bowman, public opinion analyst at AEI; Mollie Hemingway, editor at and media critic at; and Veronique de Rugy, Senior Research Fellow at Mercatus Center and expert on taxation and budget issues.

We will be acknowledging the failures of  2012 and charting a new course for women so that the future will be bright with promise.

Think of it as our inauguration party!