The Biggest Threat To Conservatism Is Big Government “Conservatives”
4 plus years and 2 crushing presidential election years later and the conservative movement (let alone the GOP) is still trying to figure out what went wrong and how to fight the next battle.
Unfortunately, far too many have concluded the lesson to be learned from Barack Obama’s victories is that the right isn’t offering a sufficiently compelling menu of government programs to compete with Obama’s and the Democrats’.
Take this from Peter Wehner.
In the face of America’s deep cultural and structural problems, assembling an agenda–including a comprehensive social-capital agenda that equips Americans, especially poor Americans, with the skills, values and habits that will allow them to succeed in a modern, free society–is a hugely complicated task. It will require a thoroughgoing reform agenda focused on entitlements, education, immigration, our financial system, and our tax code. A lot of good work is being done by policy experts and public intellectuals, by governors, and some members of Congress. (At a later date I’ll lay out what I think would constitute the broad outlines of an agenda, but for starters it might be worth reading this, this, and this.)
Or this from Jennifer Rubin
Take instead GOP governors like Susana Martinez (New Mexico), Brian Sandoval (Nevada), Chris Christie (New Jersey) and others who show up with something that might actually attract minority voters — better schools, more jobs and the like. When Christie was in Camden on Wednesday, African American elected officials, religious leaders and parents weren’t cheering the governor for showing up; they were cheering his move to take over the failing schools, put in good people and a decent curriculum and insist those schools work.
And here is where the most ideological pols on the right fail. These are people who regard transactional politics as debased and think the highest calling of a politician is to reject deal-making. Even if the ideologues show up in minority areas, they don’t have anything minority voters want to hear. A lecture on “free-market economics” or a tutorial on the “rule of law”? Puleez. These voters already think Republicans are out to lunch and don’t understand them.
At the heart of both of their arguments is the notion that government is and should play an important role in the success and happiness of individuals. As a philosophical matter that’s a proposition much more akin to Obama and the liberals than it is to the traditional definition of conservatism.
Conservatives generally believe that the key to an individuals happiness lies within them and that big government programs, no matter how good the intention behind them or how well run they may be, are an impediment to maximizing ones freedom, success and happiness.
When self-described conservatives discredit those core philosophical beliefs as “out of touch” and “stale” (Whener’s terms) or insist that the only way to reach certain voters is through a public service bidding war with Democrats as Rubin does, one begins to wonder ways they think of themselves as conservatives.
For all the derision of the “shutdown/defund” strategy, the accommodation caucus ignores that the only GOP success in the Obama era has come from harnessing the confrontational, anti-big government energy of 2009-2010. I understand that big government advocates on the right want to write the 2010 midterms out the picture because it’s rather inconvenient for them.
I realize one can over read the support for small government embodied by the 2010 midterms but it was a rare moment of opposition to government expansion conservatives should try to build on, not airbrush out of history.
Conservatism needs to stand for smaller government and maximum individual freedom. Advocates for big government conservatism should have the decency to stop using the word conservative to describe themselves. There’s already a perfectly good word for what they are…Republican.