Conservatism in Crisis

By Reiland, Ralph R. | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 4, 2006 | Go to article overview

Conservatism in Crisis


Reiland, Ralph R., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


So, what happened to conservatism or to conservatism as it's been practiced by the current crop of D.C. Republicans?

Was too much spending the problem or not enough? Would more billions in pork for more bridges to nowhere have bought enough votes to prevent a Republican defeat? Are we that much for sale, that self-seeking and irrational?

Or was too much theocracy the problem -- or not enough? There's no shortage of rumblings from the religious right about how America's "values voters" weren't so enthusiastic this time around about getting the church buses rolling to the polls because the Republicans didn't much deliver on the faith-based agenda.

Darwin's still in the libraries, not every kid is in abstinence- only classes, the sodomy laws are gone, condoms and abortion are still legal, and not every transgendered Democrat has been signed up for one of those we'll-change-your-orientation camps.

Or were tax cuts the problem or not enough tax cuts? Would more tax cuts aimed 'at the bottom and middle have kept the Reagan- Democrats from going home?

Or was it the war or not enough war? Would Rick Santorum still have a job if Bush had nuked Baghdad?

Or wouldn't the "San Fransicko" strategy have worked its magic if only Rev. Haggard and Rep. Foley had stayed in the closet for a few more weeks?

Conservative pundit Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor at National Review magazine, doesn't deny that conservatism is in trouble. "Conservatism is in crisis," he writes in a recent cover article in National Review. "Everyone is saying so, and everyone is right. But the nature of the crisis, its causes and possible solution, is badly misunderstood."

Rather than seeing conservatism as an ideology that's in trouble, Ponnuru asserts that it's the Bush administration's mismanagement that caused the Republican defeat -- Katrina, Iraq, the scandals.

He has a point. Perhaps more than a philosophical swing from conservatism, voters were looking at the nuts and bolts of Katrina, seeing bodies floating in a river for five days in a major American city and watching the same inept administration start a war through deceit and lose it through incompetence.

Voters, as well, had seen the scandals unfold, the subsequent cover-ups, the explosion of earmarks, the Abramoff payoffs, the hypocritical sanctimony of the Mark Foley types and the mocking politics of dissection that sought to win by carving up a nation into incongruent and antagonistic camps of believers and unbelievers, straights and gays, immigrants and native-borns, modernists and fundamentalists, patriots and wimps, pragmatists and true believers, givers and takers. …

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