J. Goldberg on the Future of Conservatism

Jonah has an op-ed in the Washington Post today.  He bemoans  the loss of small government conservatism and fears rising “compassionate conservatism” (which is just a variant of “liberal fascism” in his book–at least he’s consistent).

But conservatives should contemplate the possibility that the fault lies less in the stars — or the candidates — than in ourselves. Conservatism, quite simply, is a mess these days. Conservative attitudes are changing. Or, more accurately, the attitudes of people who call themselves conservatives are changing…Today the American public seems deeply schizophrenic: It hates the government — Washington, Congress and public institutions are more unpopular than at any time since Watergate — but it wants more of it. Conservative arguments about limited government have little purchase among independents and swing voters.

There seems to me to be other avenues he downplays for limited gov’t talk–Ron Paul’s fundrasing and internet  buzz,  Andrew Sullivan still calls for limited government.  But those are going to be politically in exile for awhile, I would grant.

But with the rise of younger evangelicals, Sam’s Club Republicans, I think conservatism is shifting.  What it saw with Bush was not compassionate conservatism actually tried out–but rather used as a campaign strategy (to great success).  Conservatives have seen the Reaganite economic orthodoxy, which was predicated on dealing with stagflation (now gone), look more and more like corporate welfare and a policy enacted for very very rich.

I actually think there is a great deal that could be done on that front (David Frum’s new book mentioned in the article is one version thereof).  A better way of framing the issue would be some combination of libertarian small gov’t and this more pragmatic conservatism–again depending on the issue, the context.  I don’t think either should be pursued as absolutes.

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Published in: on January 14, 2008 at 1:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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