Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Conservative Confusion

The Moose observes that conservatives appear dazed and confused.

It can't be easy being a principled conservative these days. The welfare state is growing apace. Congressional Republicans are as addicted to spending as their Democratic predecessors. The dogs aren't buying the social security privatization dog food. And in the Schiavo episode, the American people saw the right as a bit flaky.

The truth is that W. has ended conservatism as we know it. That reality is reflected in Andrew Sullivan's important and provocative cover story in the New Republic. Sullivan suggests that conservatism is divided into two camps - the conservatism of faith and the conservatism of doubt.

The conservatism of faith is essentially the Bushie/Delayican Big Government Social Conservative Types. Sullivan says about this faction,

" This conservatism states conservative principles--and, indeed, eternal insights into the human condition--as a matter of truth. Because these conservatives believe that the individual is inseparable from her political community and civilization, there can be no government neutrality in promoting such truths. Either a government's laws affirm virtue or they affirm vice. And the meaning of virtue and vice can be understood either by reflecting on the Judeo-Christian moral tradition or by inferring from philosophical understandings what human nature in its finest form should be. These truths are not culturally relative; they are universally valid."

The government intervention in the Schiavo matter is indicative of the behavior of the faith faction. The social conservatives form the heart of this camp.

In contrast, Sullivan identifies with the much smaller group of the Oakeshottian conservatives of doubt. Here's how he describes their outlook,

"Their alternative is a skeptical, careful, prudential approach to all moral questions--and suspicion of anyone claiming to hold the absolute truth. Since such an approach rarely provides a simple answer persuasive to everyone within a democratic society, we live with moral and cultural pluralism."

The Moose would argue that Sullivan omits the critical camp in conservatism - the conservatives of the dollar. This camp overlaps with the faithful, but they are far too cynical to believe in the certainty of anything except the God given mandate to redistribute wealth upward. The $$$ crowd needs the faith folks to hold onto power which is the ultimate imperative. This is where you find most of the Republican establishment including Bush, Cheney, Frist, Rove and company.

The conservatism of doubt, in truth, has long ceased to exist. They were best represented by Barry Goldwater and to some extent by Reagan. But as even Sullivan acknowledges,

" Religious right dominance of the party machinery, in an electoral landscape remade by gerrymandering, means that few opponents of fundamentalist politics have a future in the Republican Party. It's telling that none of the biggest talents in the Republican Party will ever be its nominee for president. John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Pataki, and Rudy Giuliani could never survive the fundamentalist-dominated primaries."

Ultimately, the problem with conservatism is not the faith v. doubt dichotomy but rather the Party is now dominated by a money elite who realizes that the only way to maintain power is to exploit the cultural war divisions in the country. As the Moose has pointed out, GOP illuminati certainly do not leave their homes in the morning with a passion to prevent Jim from marrying John or to save a fetus from an abortionist. For instance, many have loved ones who are gay, or they may be gay themselves. The powers that be in the GOP are far more concerned about eliminating the estate tax for multimillionaires than halting the death of the unborn.

Andrew Sullivan has made an important contribution about the divisions in the GOP. But, the Moose suggests that he has over-thought the philosophical divide. At the end of the day it does not come down to certainty versus doubt. The Rovian DeLayicans have no doubt that they must hold onto power to promote their plutocratic policies.

And they are not confused.
-- Posted at 8:05 AM | Link to this post | Email this post