Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Crisis of Confidence

The Moose comments on the torment of the right.

Back in the early sixties, Barry Goldwater wrote the right wing manifesto, "Conscience of a Conservative." Today, it would likely be titled, "The Crisis of Confidence of a Conservative."

For the past forty years, conservatism was in the ascendancy. Just a couple of years ago, it had a certain self-confident swagger. Hubris was its only threat. In 2000, conservatism reached its zenith. The right had a President that was viewed as Reagan plus. Conservative leaders controlled the Legislation and Executive Branches. The entire "Leave us Alone" crowd was riding high in the saddle.

And now, conservatives are wondering how they were so resoundingly rejected not by the elites, but by the masses. They have been left alone.

Social security privatization went nowhere. The Schiavo episode was a disaster. The public has no great appetite for more tax cuts. A conservative-led Congress and President greatly expanded the welfare state. The disillusionment with this Administration is now profound. The right even sympathizes with the hapless Rumsfeld.

The Moose is not suggesting that conservatism is in disrepute. It has not reached the state of liberalism in which actual adherents of that view fear to attach that label to themselves. However, there is no doubt that the right faces a crisis of confidence that is usually associated with the left.

Whither conservatism? Is big government compatible with this perspective? How is it to win back the affections of the middle class when it pursues a plutocratic economic policy? Are they internationalists who can competently manage nation building? Will the right write off millions and millions of Americans in a restrictionist rage?

Fundamentally, will conservatism shrink to the minority movement it once was? Or will it evolve into a more middle class and less plutocratic movement?

All elephants (and donkeys for that matter) would be well served to read this brilliant piece by Ross Douthat & Reihan Salam that appeared in the Weekly Standard a while back - The Party of Sam's Club. Douthat and Salam wrote,

"The economic anxieties of middle and working-class voters are likely to be the domestic political issue of the coming years, and a party, or at the very least a 2008 presidential candidate, in search of an agenda needs to start thinking seriously about how to address them."

Can conservatism be born again?
-- Posted at 8:10 AM | Link to this post | Email this post