Youâ€™re going to hear quite a bit from the left over â€˜the death of conservatismâ€™ over the next few weeks. But theyâ€™ve got it wrong. I say, what weâ€™ve got is the death of compromised conservatism as espoused by George W Bush, his father, GHW Bush, and by more recently, John McCain.
This morning, we see a post from Helen Valois at Renew America, who calls this â€˜conservative conservatismâ€™. I can quibble with the name she chooses, but not her meaningâ€¦
What is conservative conservatism? It is a commitment to playing a good defense (or rather â€” except for the one, brief, shining moment of Governor Palinâ€™s acceptance speech â€” a pretty flawed defense) when your opponents have gone decisively on the offensive. It is that which John McCain quintessentially represents â€” the recalcitrant determination to believe that reaching across the aisle will be met with good will from the other side; that the mainstream media can be counted on, in the last analysis, to give us a fair shake; and that, if something waddles like a Marxist and quacks like a Marxist, it therefore isnâ€™t a Marxist.
Why did the crowd of McCain/Palin supporters resoundingly boo during McCainâ€™s concession speech, when the heroic war hero said he had the â€œhonorâ€ of congratulating Barack Obama on becoming the new leader of a country â€œwe both loveâ€? Because they recognize, as he evidently and tragically does not, that we are no longer living in the bygone era when Democrats and Republicans may have respectfully disagreed with one another about policy issues, but still basically held certain truths to be self-evident. We want leaders who will deal with the present-day reality of what the Democratic Party has become, not play political â€œsee no evil, hear no evil, speak no evilâ€ where the survival of our democratic republic is concerned. John McCain once admonished Barack Obama that, if the junior senator from Illinois wanted to run against George Bush, he should have done so four years ago. McCain himself is running a little culturally late, if taking on JFK was his ultimate goal.
This whole â€œconservative conservativeâ€ approach, which may be summed up as the â€œbig tent Republicanâ€ effort to live off of Reaganâ€™s cultural patrimony without respecting it or contributing to its growth and survival, is now officially defunct. If thereâ€™s anything to rejoice about in todayâ€™s disturbing headlines, thatâ€™s it. We no longer have the luxury of watering down conservative principle to the point of disappearance, in this party.
The bolding is my own, and goes directly to the points Iâ€™ve made repeatedly in the last day or two, most recently in my response to the WSJ article on the way GWBâ€™s been treated. Iâ€™ll repeat part of it because itâ€™s critical that Democrats of today need to be clearly understood:
Reach out to them, theyâ€™ll break your armâ€¦ as Bush Sr found out. Remember that one? He broke his â€˜no new taxes pledgeâ€™ because the Democrats asked him toâ€¦ which they then used to beat him about the head and shoulders in 1992. Of course that Clinton, upon winning, largely on the fact that Bush Sr tried to reach out and compromise with the Democrats on taxesâ€¦ then turned around and broke his tax pledge before the echo from his oath of office had died, mattered to the Democrats not at all.
His kid, W, never learned that lesson either as weâ€™ve said here many times.
â€¦which is one major reason why even moderate voters rejected McCainâ€¦ that was a lesson he apparently never learned, either. This needs to be remembered by the next leadership of the party; there is no negotiation with Democrats. None. Both Bush 41 and Bush 43, and to a lesser degree, McCain, have taught us that lesson, one would hope.
Let me be clear; I agree that the way Wâ€™s been treated has been shameful. No question. But the fact of the matter is, he, and his father before him, and McCain have all brought this on themselves. The American voter understands this, and understands what they do not on the matter, all of which culminates at the election of Obama.
Interestingly, with that defeat of McCain, weâ€™re hearing the mantra chant that conservatism is dead. In response to this, I dare to suggest to you that conservatism itself has not been killed off. Conservatism was never really on the ballot for the most part. Where conservatism did show up on the ballotâ€¦ for example, Prop 8 out in California, and in similar measures in Arizona and in Florida, it won big time. Some 30 states now have such laws on the books as a result of putting conservative values up for a vote. We hear a lot of noise about how thatâ€™s a disconnectâ€¦ how voters for Obama can also in large pluralities, pass such amendments into their state constitutions. But you see, that makes the assumption that thereâ€™s a baseline perception of McCain, the other presidential choice, as a conservative among the electorate.
(As an aside, this is why Iâ€™ve been saying â€œbuyerâ€™s remorseâ€ is about to set itself in, come January, and possibly before; when Obama starts in with his agenda, the vast majority of Americans are going to find out just how counter Obama runs to American values)
So, itâ€™s not conservatism per se thatâ€™s been killed off.
Itâ€™s illegitimate cousin, â€˜compassionate conservatismâ€™, however, has been identified as directly counter productive. Even a lot of Republicans have as a result of this weak-kneed conservatism, looked at the choices offered, and decided to vote for the conservative equivalent of Cthulhu for President, on the idea that a vote for a lesser evil, McCain, simply furthered the torture. An understandable, if strikingly, and desperately suicidal move.
Clearly, what needs to happen is that conservatives either need to start speaking up and moving the Republican party back to the right, as left us by Ronald Reagan, or find another party. To the end of the former, conservative blogs need to start re-stating conservative principles, both as general and foundational statements of fact, and in reaction to events of the day. We need to place pressure on the Republican party to pick up the principles it has all but abandoned when the Gipper left the field.
Principles such as â€˜Government isnâ€™t the solution, government is the PROBLEMâ€™.
Obviously, the number of people this blog can reach is limited, but we will do what we can. Youâ€™re going to be seeing some interesting, and I think exciting efforts toward that end at BitsBlog and The Conservative Reader and a number of others over the next weeks and months. Weâ€™ll speak more about this as time goes on.
Bottom line, though, at least for now, is that our reaction to the Republican party should be to force them to move back to the right, foring them to commit to have actual conservatives in positions of leadership, and running for office, removing those who do not fit that moldâ€¦ and then forcing themâ€¦ loudlyâ€¦ to follow through.