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The Future of the Right: in search of the viable contrast
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ross Douthat makes
a compelling point
about the political options available to the Right: (emphasis added)
From the 1970s onward, the Republican Party built its majority by running against a politics that seemed to privilege the interests of the poor over those of working- and middle-class taxpayers. This is not a legacy that should be lightly abandoned, not least because America already has a party that envisions the federal bureaucracy as alternatively compassionate and heroic. In the long run, you can't out-liberal liberalism; the Democratic Party will always offer voters the higher bid.

To last, and matter, conservatism needs an agenda that partakes less of Gerson's evangelical moralism and more of the realism that defined the original neoconservatives. It needs a foreign policy whose idealism is leavened with a greater sense of limits than this administration has displayed; and a domestic policy that seeks to draw contrasts with liberalism, not to imitate it, by emphasizing responsibility rather than charity and respect rather than compassion. Above all, it needs to think as much about meeting the concerns of working- and middle-class Americans, the constituents that first Nixon and then Reagan won for the GOP, as it does about the dissidents and addicts that a "heroic conservatism" would set out to save.

Michael Gerson is right that a return to the conservatism of the late 1990s, with its reflexive anti-government spirit and its parochial streak, means a return to the political wilderness. But just because the Republican Party can't go back doesn't mean it has to keep going down the path that he and George W. Bush carved out for it.

 
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I would have highlighted this part:
It’s a stirring vision in its way, but there’s little that’s conservative about it. What Gerson proposes is an imitation of Great Society liberalism, in which noble, high-minded elites like himself use the levers of government on behalf of "the poor, the addicted, and children at risk." He employs the phrase limited government here and there, but never suggests any concrete limits on what government should do. Whether he’s writing about poverty or foreign policy, immigration, or health care, his prescription for the right is all heroism and no conservatism; indeed, save for its pro-life sympathies, his vision seems indistinguishable from the liberalism of an LBJ—or a Jimmy Carter.

That is why the GOP is in the trouble that it is. Aside from a pro-life stance it has become indistinguishable from big government liberalism. Okay, you can throw in tax cuts but without the accompanying cuts in the size of government the tax cuts become a problem.

If the GOP wants to go back to the wilderness than stick with neo-conservatism. You’re not going to convice me that government really is my friend and is here to help. It is not. If I believed that nonsense then I’d vote for Democrats.
 
Written By: tkc
URL: http://
Michael Gerson is right that a return to the conservatism of the late 1990s, with its reflexive anti-government spirit and its parochial streak, means a return to the political wilderness. But just because the Republican Party can’t go back doesn’t mean it has to keep going down the path that he and George W. Bush carved out for it.
I’m confused by that statement. By the late 90’s the Republicans had given up their anti-government position already. It wasn’t new with Bush. Bush was the tip of the iceberg in that respect.

I also don’t see why pulling for less government somehow obsolete or going back to the ’wilderness’.

This sounds more like a Big Government Republican (or full on RINO) hack trying to double talk a distinction between Bush and other Big Government Republicans.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Hmmm.. here’s a para you did not choose to emphasize, Jon:

This "here comes everybody" quality has been the American Right’s great strength over the past three decades, and a Republican Party that aspires to govern America can ill afford to read the Gersons of the world—social conservatives with moderate-to-liberal sympathies on economics—out of its coalition.

I admit, I love it when liberals draw contrasts with conservatives. I seem to recall a lot of people telling me that an ideology that contains nothing more than reflexive and reactionary opposition to a coherent philosophy dooms you to failure.

I’m not sure that case is ironclad. Trash talk can take you a long way. But it’s amusing to see you suggest that the path back for conservatives is reflexive anti-liberalism over a coherent, positive agenda. That’s how I read you, anyway.

Dunno bout you, but I’m loving the Mike Huckabee phoenomenon. So is Mike Gerson.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
But it’s amusing to see you suggest that the path back for conservatives is reflexive anti-liberalism over a coherent, positive agenda. That’s how I read you, anyway.
Considering that you are familiar with Jon’s posts here at QandO and you’ve read his positions on various topics, I just don’t see how you can take that meaning from this post. Douthat suggests drawing contrasts with liberalism vice imitating it... that’s not the same as being reflexively anti-liberals. Try re-evaluating this post as supporting a principled anti-liberalism, qua a coherent, positive agenda. You know... the kind of point Henke might usually make.
 
Written By: Wulf
URL: http://www.atlasblogged.com

 
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