There is an interesting discussion of neo-conservatism and paleo-conservatism at the weblog of Harvard Law School's Federalist Society (if you can get beyond the fact that it combines three great banes of society: Harvard, lawyers, and student politicians). Interesting quote there:
"I have been, and am still, a traditional conservative, focusing on three general freedoms- economic, social, and political ... Russel Kirk's The Conservative Mind, published [in 1953] was also important to me. Kirk gave the conservative viewpoint an intellectual foundation and respectability it had not attained in modern society ... [Kirk] declared that religion, family, and private property and its yield, as well as law and order, were the foundations of a conservative society ... 'My kind of Republican Party is committed to a free state, limited central power, a reduction in bureaucracy, and a balanced budget'" Goldwater, pp. 109-112. I think this summarizes mainstream conservatism as well as any other statement and I don't understand everyone's fascination with a war on the fringes.
That pretty much does sum up the common understanding of conservatism. The neos are too quick to increase the power of the federal government, when we ought to be trying to reduce it. I don't think we can or should repeal everything done since 1964 or 1932 or 1913 or 1860 or 1787. Practicality and responsibility dictate that some federal agencies will remain. Anarchy is not a conservative goal, and conservatives will have to make peace with some forms of federal regulation and oversight. But that doesn't mean being enthusiastic over increaching the scope and reach of government power.
The article is fascinating, but I don't trust the New Republic very much about conservatives. What's significant is that all this has been obscured by the shift of debate to foreign and military affairs. When the dust clears, we may well find Kristol's neo-conservatism enthrowned as the new conservative orthodoxy, or we may find a bitter battle over domestic policy and the size and role of the state.
Like the gingham dog and the calico cat, neos and paleos, lovers of TR and FDR on one side and haters of Lincoln and Hamilton on the other may end up devouring each other, leaving the way open for political leaders who directly address the voter, rather than courtiers who seek to become power brokers. Goldwater and Reagan, do seem to be a good guide. Though they were most critical of the general trend of government intervention since FDR, I don't think they opposed environmental protection or the regulation of banks and financial markets.
Fractionalizing of various elements has resulted in a power vaccuum, only now filled by such as Rumsfeld and Bush, to a lesser extent Cheney.
There may be a number of academics who could fill the role as spokesman for a conservative "mainstream," but they are routinely bypassed in favor of media-savvy personalities such as Kristol, Will and even William Bennett, who may be one of those "national greatness" fans for all I know. His presence on the tube disgusts me.
I'm convinced that the media turns a blind eye to anyone who can speak with authority with regard to the nation's past and present. They are looking for sound bites only, not anything in depth. It's not even a left-right dichotomy we have to concern ourselves with, as some think. When did you ever see Noam Chomsky on ABC World News, for example? PBS, maybe, but I never watch that propaganda.
Libertarians are just about totally excluded from the major media, with the single exception of Milton Friedman. He gets a pass as a Nobel Laureate and an all-around nice guy, in a non-threatening way. If he wants to repeal Social Security and abolish the Fed, the typical media reporter isn't going to call him on it.
We have to somehow separate the conservatives in government (the few that remain, that is), who are only too well aware of their limitations, from those in academia who are actively formulating plans to roll back federal programs, in anticipation of a new generation of legislators. The former can't really do much because they don't have the votes; the latter can do plenty by educating constituents through on-line journals, newsletters, publications from Heritage and CEI, etc.
The power-brokers like Kristol would never consider going the long route through private citizens (who fall asleep in the middle of their lectures anyway) when they have entree to Capitol offices. They don't really need the media exposure except as it serves as a two-edged sword, keeping others out as they increase their own visibility among the establishment in Washington.
But is this what everyone thinks conservatives are about? For example there are WOD conservatives on this forum who are not for limiting central power or reducing bureaucracy if it means that individual states will decriminalize marijuana. Most Republicans elected don't appear too interested in reducing bureaucracy or balancing the budget.
My observation is a lot of conservatives want to capture the Federal government so they can implement their way of thinking. Now I personally think having the Republicans controlling both houses of Congress and the Presidency is a good idea so we can get the backlog of judges filled with conservative, non-judicial activist type judges, which means they don't make it up as they go along. But I suspect there are conservatives who do want judges to make it up as they go along - just the "conservative" way - whatever way that is.
As for Kirk's definition - I agree with it completely. But there are plenty of Democrats who would also agree with it. No, not the gay rights, feminazi, race-baiting, "progressive" socialists. But while they make all the noise, they are not the whole Democratic party, either. There's lots of conservative, Catholic, blue collar, Reagan democrats out there still.
So...in what way are FReepers "conservative"? And how many different definitions do we have? And why have we failed to pull in the Reagan democrats? (And we have failed - or the government wouldn't be so closely split.)