Skip to comments.The Promised Land( Op-Ed By DAVID BROOKS)
Posted on 11/29/2003 11:26:31 AM PST by luckydevi
The Promised Land By DAVID BROOKS
Published: November 29, 2003
The history of American conservatism is an exodus tale. It begins in the wilderness, in the early 1950's, with Russell Kirk, Milton Friedman and William F. Buckley Jr. writing tracts for small bands of true believers.
Conservatives crashed into the walls of power during the Goldwater debacle of 1964, and then breached those walls with Reagan's triumph 16 years later. But even with Reagan in the Oval Office, Republicans were not the majority party. Democrats controlled the House, and few Reaganites actually knew how to run a government.
In 1994, with the Gingrich revolution, the conservatives strode closer to the center of power. But even then, they were not quite there. For the rule of exodus tales is that the chiefs who lead in the wilderness and storm the citadels do not get to govern once their troops have occupied the city. Renegades are too combative to govern well.
It was only this week that we can truly say the exodus story is over, with the success of the Medicare reform bill. This week the G.O.P. behaved as a majority party in full. The Republicans used the powers of government to entrench their own dominance. They used their control of the federal budget to create a new entitlement, to woo new allies and service a key constituency group, the elderly.
From now on, as Tony Blankley observed in The Washington Times, if you work at an interest group and you want to know what's going on with your legislation, you have to go to the Republicans. The Democrats don't even know the state of play.
If you are the AARP, seeking a benefit, you have to go to the Republicans. If you are a centrist Democrat like John Breaux or Max Baucus seeking to pass legislation, you have to work with the Republicans.
Under the leadership of Bush, Frist, Hastert and DeLay, the Republicans have built a fully mature establishment of activist groups, think tanks and lobbyists, which is amazingly aloof from the older Washington establishment (not to mention the media establishment). Republicans now speak in that calm, and to their opponents infuriating, manner of those who believe they were born to rule.
The Democrats, meanwhile, behave just as the Republicans did when they were stuck in the minority. They complain about their outrageous mistreatment by the majority. They are right to complain. The treatment is outrageous. But the complaints only communicate weakness.
Democrats indulge in the joys of opposition. They get to sputter about fiscal irresponsibility, just as the green-eyeshade Republicans used to, as the majority party uses the power of the purse to buy votes. They get to make wild charges. They get to propose solutions that ignore inconvenient realities. They never have to betray their principles to get something done, and so they savor their own righteousness.
Minority parties are pure but defeated; governing parties are impure but victorious. The Republicans are now in the habit of winning, and are on permanent offense on all fronts. They offer tax cuts to stimulate the economy and please business. They nominate conservative judges to advance conservative social reform and satisfy religious conservatives. They fight a war on terror. They have even come to occupy the Democratic holy of the holies, the welfare state. In exchange for massive new spending, they demand competitive reforms.
The only drawback is that now, as the governing party, they have to betray some of the principles that first animated them. This week we saw dozens of conservatives, who once believed in limited government, vote for a new spending program that will cost over $2 trillion over the next 20 years.
In the past three years, federal education spending has increased by 65 percent. Unemployment benefit payments are up by 85 percent.
Many conservatives are dismayed over what has happened to their movement as it has grown fat and happy in the Promised Land. A significant rift has opened up between the conservative think tankers and journalists, who are loyal to ideas, and the K Street establishmentarians, who are loyal to groups.
The good news for Democrats is that the K Street establishment will slowly win this struggle. The majority will ossify. It will lose touch with its principles and eventually crumble under the weight of its own spoils. The bad news for Democrats is that, as Republicans can tell you, the ossification process is maddeningly slow. After the New Deal, it took 60 years.
An astute article.
Yes, very astute. But this is something that Common Tator has been saying for over a year now.
FR is so far ahead of the curve it's scary sometimes.
Be Seeing You,
Brooks does fail to see that the GOP has given in to eventual fiscal collapse when the boomers' retirement IOU's come in, just as the Democrats gave in fifteen years ago.
No, an apology for socialism. A real Republican working majority would devise a health care plan that relied on choice and market economics -- and they wouldn't be afraid to push it through, over the protests of the media. Instead, they've surrendered to the media's liberalism and given us LBJ-style "reform" There's nothing "astute" in claiming this is a victory for conservatism. It's a defeat for real governance by Republicans and another victory for socialism
Sorry, but he was a fake "conservative" even before he joined the Times. That's why they hired him!
Excuse me. He seems to be confusing his parties. It's the dims who place judges who legislate from the bench.
He has chronicled the rise of the Republican Party and has identified that if you now want to play ball in Washington, you do so in the court of the Republicans.
He acknowledges the price that was paid.
The only drawback is that now, as the governing party, they have to betray some of the principles that first animated them.Now you and I and 95% of the posters to this board will argue that the price is too high and that more work is needed to roll back government.
But none of that makes the article less true.
60 years sounds pretty good to me. I'll take 60 years.
Both sides of the political spectrum live in a make believe world. The left thinks that if they just get the right people to run a socilistic government, or the right country to try it, or just the right amount of Socialism, it will work and produce utopia. Of course it will not.
The equally naieve people on the right think that if they just elect the right people the march to socialism will be stopped and the return to individual freedoms will prevail. What a CROCK.
What part of, This is a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people escapes the right? The answer is all of it.
The right constantly cries for principled leaders as if that were a good thing. What is a principled leader? He or she is a person who will do what their principles dictate no matter what the public want. Of course that is the definition of a dictatorship. The most principled men to govern in the last century were Hitler and Stalin. They did not listen to the public. They did what their principles told them to do.
You of course want a principled leader with whom you agree. That is how Hilters come to power. They always sound good until they get in power. Early on people agree with their principled leaders principles. Then the public learns to hate the implementation of those principles. Too late the public figures out they have no power under a principled leader. Remember he is guided by his principles not public opinion.
What is required to take this nation back to its basic form of government, is a change in the views of voters.
Then and only then will our public servants do what you want. Bush is doing the public will right now.. he is doing what the voters want. You don't like it because you are in the minority. If you were able to change public opinion so your views were in the majority every President would do your will.
But the right keeps looking for that principled leader. If you ever find one, he won't get any more votes than Barry Goldwater... and his very failed campaign will grant a huge victory to the other side. That will likely foster another great society.
I can't argue with your latest missive, but will add that the foundation has been laid.
This article shows the steady progress...Heritage Foundation, the utter triumph of Friedman economics, the emerging ascension of conservative media, and now peopling the "permanent" government with "our" folks.
The last hurdle is academia, and David Horowitz is working on that.
Good point. Factions and parties aspire to become "the Establishment," but this hardly matters to the public, even if they share the expressed ideology of the party or movement. The electorate only wants good, effective and honest officials. We certainly will try to vote out any entrenched, smug, or arrogant establishment, but if the new group shows signs of developing the same faults, the worst thing we can do is to let them take us for granted. Make any party, faction or establishment earn your vote or suffer the consequences of not getting it. Don't give your vote away too easily.
I can certainly admire the conservatives of the 1960s and 1970s setting out to change American politics. Once a movement has changed things and made a place for itself in the political system it's harder to get enthusiastic about it. All other things being equal I'll certainly vote for the more conservative candidate, but "we are the establishment now" doesn't resonate with those of us who never wanted to be part of a governing elite and aren't so crazy about political or journalistic careers. It has to be about something more than rank, office holding and hegemonic position for those of us outside the Beltway to get very interested about politics.
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