Academic journal article Policy Review

Kristol Ball: William Kristol Looks at the Future of the GOP

Academic journal article Policy Review

Kristol Ball: William Kristol Looks at the Future of the GOP

Article excerpt

William Bennett once commented on the irony that many of the most effective conservative politicians these days are former academics. "Conservatives who come from universities have learned to cope with ideological hostility," Mr. Bennett said. "It isn't such a big shock to meet a group of hostile reporters or hostile members of Congress after you have been dealing with faculty colleagues."

It is remarkable how many of the GOP's most influential leaders used to be professors. Newt Gingrich, the next leader of Republicans in the House, taught history. Senator Phil Gramm and Representative Dick Armey were economics professors. Mr. Bennett is an erstwhile philosophy teacher.

William Kristol, a former teacher at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, is universally regarded as one of the most capable and brilliant political strategists in conservatism. Chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle, and previously to Mr. Bennett at the Department of Education, Mr. Kristol last year directed the Bradley Project on the 90s. He is now chairman of a new organization, the Project for the Republican Future, whose goals are to challenge the premises and purposes of liberalism, and to serve as a "strategic nerve center for a network of thinkers, activists, and organizations committed to a coherent agenda of conservative reform."

In November 1993, Mr. Kristol talked about Clintonism and its vulnerabilities, and the future of the Republican party in an interview with Policy Review editor Adam Meyerson.

Policy Review: The congressional elections of 1994 will probably be the most important elections in this country since the Reagen landslide of 1980. How many seats in the Senate and House should Republicans aim at picking up? What are the most important defining issues for Republican congressional candidates to run on?

Kristol: Republicans should aim at picking up a majority in both the House and the Senate. There is no point in setting one's sights any lower. The great opportunity for Republicans will be to run against Clintonism, and to mount a whole-hearted challenge to contemporary liberalism. Running against the Clinton health program will obviously be very important, because it is the grandest and most striking embodiment of contemporary liberalism. But we need to challenge the premises and presumptions of today's liberalism across the board.

This means making the case for limited government, and then explaining as well that limited government is more energetic and more effective government. We have to say there are certain things we expect government to do, such as making the streets safe and national defense. And there are certain areas where government is ineffectual or shouldn't be involved in the first place. We have to show how a conservative agenda in areas such as education and health care will address the problems that people are concerned about - without increasing, and in many cases actually reducing, the scope of government.

P.R.: Does George Bush bear primary responsibility for the disappointing performance of GOP congressional candidates in 1992? Or has there been a deeper problem in the party, reflected in the GOP's loss of the Senate in 1986, and the failure of Republicans to win many open House seats during the Reagan presidency? What must Republicans do better in 1994 and 1996 if they are to win control of the Congress?

Kristol: George Bush has to bear some responsibility for the disappointments of 1992. His departure from Reaganomics was very damaging. But Republicans were hurt as well by the absence of an aggressive conservative reform agenda on a broad range of domestic issues such as health care, crime, and education. This wasn't just George Bush's fault. The party as a whole didn't do as much work as it should have done in some of those areas.

P.R.: Many Democrats as well as Republicans are sharply criticizing President Clinton over his performance as commander-in-chief, arguably the most important responsibility of the presidency. …

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