Our partnership with the dead, the living, and the unborn

Peter Wehner quotes British journalist Charles Moore, reviewing Jesse Norman’s new biography of the 18th century father of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke:

As his struggles for America, Ireland and Corsica showed, Burke was no automatic defender of existing authority. But what he understood, and expressed with immense rhetorical power, was how human beings stand in relation to one another. Although they are morally autonomous individuals, they do not – cannot – live in isolation. In our language, laws, institutions, religion, and in our families, we are part of a continuum.

Society is ”a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born’’. It is not society that keeps mankind in chains, but the pretence that now is the only time that matters. Almost every piece of rot you hear in politics comes from those who wish to lock man into what WH Auden called ”the prison of his days’’. It is comforting that the Burkean Jesse Norman is in the House of Commons to tell them when they are wrong.

Mr. Wehner adds his reflections:

It strikes me that this ancient insight–of how we do not live in isolation, that we are part of a continuum–has been a bit neglected by American conservatives in recent years. [Read more...]

Civil war within the Republican party?

The John McCain wing of the Republican party and the Rand Paul wing of the Republican party have been attacking each other over military policy and who is to blame for losing the presidential election.  Now at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week, the so-called establishment Republicans and the so-called tea-party Republicans ridiculed each other.  Observers are seeing schism, if not civil war.

Interestingly, Mario Rubio and Jeb Bush are being described as “establishment” figures, though they used to be considered hard-core conservatives.  So I suspect some of this Republican break-up talk is wishful thinking from Democrat-leaning pundits.  But here is a prediction:  Both the “pragmatic” professional politicians in the Republican party–the ones fixated on winning elections–AND the newly insurgent libertarian wing associated with Rand Paul will come together to advocate gay marriage.  If this happens, where would that leave you (us) social conservatives?  [Read more...]

Big business vs. free enterprise

Ezra Klein tells about young conservative think-tanker Derek Khanna, who wrote at his bosses’ behest a paper criticizing the heavy-handed use of copyright law to inhibit competition.  Conservatives praised the paper, but then pushback from corporate funders caused the think tank to pull the paper and fire its author.

Khanna had unwittingly stumbled into a deep fissure in today’s Republican Party. The party sees itself as the champion of private enterprise. But which private enterprises? The ones that exist today? Or the ones that might exist tomorrow?

There’s a difference between being the party of free markets and the party of existing businesses. Excessively tough copyright law is good for big businesses with large legal departments but bad for new businesses that can’t afford a lawyer. And while Khanna, like many young conservative thinkers, believes in free markets, the Republican Party is heavily funded by big businesses. [Read more...]

Democrats and Republicans reverse roles

Have you noticed that it’s now the Democrats who are trying to wage a culture war?  Meanwhile, all Republicans want to talk about today is economics, which was always the interest of the New Deal Democrats.  [Read more...]

One Nation Conservatism

Mitt Romney seems to dismiss the 47% of Americans who will never vote for him anyway.  James P. Pinkerton, though, recounts another kind of conservatism–the tradition of Disraeli, Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and others–that is oriented to the 100%.

This is the ideology of the popular conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who described his philosophy this way:

I’m a one-nation Tory. There is a duty on the part of the rich to the poor and to the needy, but you are not going to help people express that duty and satisfy it if you punish them fiscally so viciously that they leave this city and this country. I want London to be a competitive, dynamic place to come to work.

It is also the ideology of Calvin Coolidge, who said this:

The commonwealth is one. We are all members of one body. The welfare of the weakest and the welfare of the most powerful are inseparably bound together. Industry cannot flourish if labor languish. Transportation cannot prosper if manufactures decline. The general welfare cannot be provided for in any one act, but it is well to remember that the benefit of one is the benefit of all, and the neglect of one is the neglect of all. The suspension of one man’s dividends is the suspension of another man’s pay envelope.

via What Happened to the 100 Percent? | The American Conservative.

This brand of conservatism tries to create a sense of national unity, rather than setting groups off against each other, embraces patriotism, tries to reform social evils, and thus inspires voters.

Do you see any prospect for bringing this back?

Are the Republicans still a national party?

Daniel McCarthy,  the editor of The American Conservative, answers that question with a “no.”  He points out that Republicans have become very successful on the local and state levels, but haven’t won a plurality of votes in a national presidential race for four out of the last five elections.  McCarthy explores why this is and why Republicans keep nominating moderates who have to masquerade as conservatives, only to lose national elections.  Samples:

If the only effect in play were the strength of grassroots right-wing constituencies, you wouldn’t expect the party to consistently nominate moderates like both Bushes, Dole, McCain, and Romney. None of those nominees had impeccable conservative credentials — far from it. But once they got the nomination, they didn’t run as the moderates they were; most of them sold themselves as being at least as right as Reagan, even in the general election. At least since 2004, this is because the party has pursued a base strategy: an attempt to eke out a narrow win by getting more Republicans to the polls than Democrats, with independents — a small and difficult-to-market-to demographic — basically ignored. The party tries to leverage its regional identity and regional organization into presidential victory. It has failed four times out of five. . . .

Republicans tend to have a clear establishment front-runner going into their presidential contests, and that individual pretty much always wins the nomination, in part because he usually has far more money than his opponents. Indeed, that financial advantage allows the establishment front-runner to discourage viable semi-establishment opponents — your Mitch Daniels types — from even entering the race. That leaves the ideological groups to field their own non-viable standard-bearer — Huckabee or Santorum types. Because the eventual GOP nominee pursues a base strategy, though, he winds up embarrassing himself by trying to sound “severely conservative.” He has to get religious right and Tea Party voters to turn out for him. But even if they do, they’re not enough: those constituencies don’t add up to 50 percent of the electorate. Republicans are actually closer than Democrats to being the real 47 percent party. (Though it’s more accurate to say the GOP is the 48-49 percent party and the Democrats are the 49-50 percent party.)

This isn’t all about elections, however. The policy options that Congress and the president get to consider and the intellectual life of the nation are also warped by the GOP’s “47 percent” ideology. Because conservatives over-identify with the GOP, and the GOP’s identity is determined by factional and regional ideologies, the result is that conservatives take their definition of conservatism from the party and that definition is more regional- and interest-based than philosophical. This accounts for the spectacle of the GOP periodically getting worked up about “big government” while in fact expanding government — welfare state, warfare state, banning internet gambling, you name it — whenever it’s in power. The blue state/red state psychological divide is more fundamental to the party’s understanding of the world than is any consistent view of the proper extent and uses of government. . . .

None of this has anything to do with the historic conservatism of Edmund Burke or John Adams, Russell Kirk or Robert Nisbet. It doesn’t even look like the capacious conservatism of Ronald Reagan. It’s a scam: it does little for values in the culture as a whole because the values in question are those of an ideological minority only interested in winning through minority-organization politics; it can’t look at big-picture economics because doing so would tick off the financial interests and get anyone who broached the question read out of conservatism by Wall Street’s coalition allies. A traditionalist or consistently libertarian critic would be perceived as speaking up for lazy immoral city-dwelling welfare queens. This fanciful identity politics, and not principled economics, is what lies behind talk about “socialism,” “big government,” and the “47 percent.” If the case were otherwise, you’d see the anti-dependency case made against the Pentagon, defense contractors, churches taking government money, and red-state recipients of all kinds of largesse.

Is the GOP Still a National Party? | The American Conservative.

HT:  Todd


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