Skip to comments.This Common Cause Is No Progress (Jumpin' Jonah Goldberg)
Posted on 06/30/2006 6:34:27 AM PDT by Frank T
Partisanship has a funny way of making small differences seem huge. Listen to Howard Dean and youd think that Republicans are orcs while Democrats are the saviors of Middle-earth. Similarly, in the 1990s, Republicans including, at times, yours truly talked about Bill Clinton as if he were the worst thing ever spewed from the bowels of Mordor.
Many have noted that this partisan rage is a result of the tyranny of small differences. Clintons New Democrat rhetoric made him sound like an old Republican. And George W. Bushs compassionate conservative boilerplate made him sound like, well, a New Democrat.
Of course there are important differences between the parties. But those differences are mutating, because the dogmas on which they rest are shifting like tectonic plates.
Recently my friend David Brooks wrote in the New York Times about how he thinks that many of the presidents problems stem from the fact that conservatism is changing under his feet. Were seeing a conservatism that emphasizes freedom give way to a conservatism that emphasizes authority, Brooks wrote. Ronald Reagans conservatism aimed to free up individual initiative and beat back the forces of governmental sclerosis. But times change, says Brooks, and today the chief problem is not sclerosis but disorder. From immigration to terrorism to downsizing, people arent afraid of bureaucrats anymore. They want bureaucrats to impose order and provide security, Rudy Giuliani style.
Brooks is hardly alone in his yearning to redefine conservatism (and hes not exactly a dispassionate chronicler of the phenomenon either). Fred Barnes, Daniel Casse, Marvin Olasky, and others have tried to defend Bushs style of conservatism with phrases such as strong government conservatism or the less felicitous big government conservatism. But the evolution of conservatism is only half the story. Liberalism has undergone a dramatic change as well.
Just as many conservatives are defenestrating their anti-state dogma when it comes to social policy, many liberals are changing their minds on important issues. Whatever her motivations, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has certainly positioned herself outside stereotypical liberal groupthink. She talks about securing borders, banning flag burning, and staying the course in Iraq. And shes hardly alone. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, the Democrats Great Black Hope, has started courting evangelical Christians once the worst demons in the Lefts Hieronymus Bosch vision of the American Right. This week, Obama even defended school prayer and the under God portion of the Pledge of Allegiance.
These changes arent unrelated. In the 1990s, both the Left and the Right fell in love again with the American Progressives. Brooks led The Weekly Standards crusade for Teddy Roosevelt-style National Greatness. When Newt Gingrich took over the House as speaker, he declared that it was the dawn of a new progressive era, and on the stump today, he sings the praises of the Progressives. (Full disclosure: My wife consults for Gingrich). Sen. John McCain openly models himself on the Progressive Teddy Roosevelt, and just this week Time magazine has an essay by Karl Rove on what T.R. can teach us.
Meanwhile, on the Left, the word progressive has started to replace liberal, for several reasons, including a renaissance of faith in the socially transformative power of the state. Recall that liberalism in the 1970s and 1980s was more about empowering interest groups than what Hillary Clinton has called a new politics of meaning (which she grounded in the Progressive social gospel tradition). A host of intellectuals and Bill Clinton himself argued that Clintonism represented the restoration of progressivism. Recently, Joel Kotkin argued in the Washington Post that the failures that followed Hurricane Katrina proved that we need to return to the cult of government competence manifested by the Progressives. The New Republics Peter Beinarts new book, The Good Fight, is, as others have noted, the most coherent case for a new program of Liberal National Greatness. And at the supposed ideological extremes, weve seen Naderites and Buchananites finding common cause.
Progressivism is not merely the faux populism of the Internet. Nor is it solely the label for whatever policies self-described Progressives prefer. It is a faith often grounded in Christianity, but not necessarily so in the redemptive power and professional competence of the state. And, frankly, I despise it.
As a matter of analysis, Brooks is right. Much of intellectual conservatism has bought into the logic of progressivism. The war on terror has hastened the classically Progressive yearning for security. The arguments between the political parties for the foreseeable future will not be between champions of state intervention and laissez-faire. Theyll be between those who want the state to do liberal things, on race and the environment, for example, and those who want it to do conservative things, such as faith-based initiatives and national education standards. Forced to choose, Ill take the latter. But I wont like it.
©2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
A party of Rockefeller Republicans, in the past, were not able to command much of the branches of government and it's elected positions. Given how the Democrats these are behaving these days - since the early seventies that is to say - this does give an opportunity for these types of Republicans to run with their agenda.
I hope that wing gets the proverbial smackdown, and McCain being embarrassed in the next GOP presidential primaries would be a good indicator as to where the party is going. The country does not need two progressive political parties.
What does David Brooks know about Conservatism? He wouldn't know Conservatism if it bit hom on the ass!
Rockefeller Republicanism is different -- it basically says "More New Deal Democrat government boondoggles, only not so much and not so fast." The classic divide between BGC and RR is on social welfare programs. The RR GOP would still keep all the Great Society programs and agencies, just slow down the rate of the spending growth. BGC couldn't care less about these programs; but if they have to spend money on them to get enough votes to effectively fight the important battles to defend America, they will.
Hell, we don't need one at all!
I think Brooks is projecting when he says that, as it is his preferred version of conservatism.
"The arguments between the political parties for the foreseeable future will not be between champions of state intervention and laissez-faire. Theyll be between those who want the state to do liberal things, on race and the environment, for example, and those who want it to do conservative things, such as faith-based initiatives and national education standards. Forced to choose, Ill take the latter."
I won't. Everything seems to be shaping up this fall as a mom-and-apple-pie vs. abortion-and-McDonald's election, and I won't vote for the latter. But I'm done with voting for big government in conservative/GOP clothing. I'll vote third party before I vote for an amorphous Republican again.
Is he still "House Conservative" on NPR / PBS?
This is what neocons do. They sit around and write papers about how important they are and how libertarians and paleocons are hopelessly out of date.
It's what their communist party forefathers did back in the 30s when they were infiltrating the unions and the Democrats.
"It's what their communist party forefathers did back in the 30s when they were infiltrating the unions and the Democrats."
1) I hardly think of Brooks' pedigree as that of communist. To me, it seems like he comes from the old Tory/mildly elitiest tradition.
2) 1930's unions were coopted? I think they WERE the problem.