The Next Conservatism (redux)

By Mark T. Mitchell for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

Back in 2007, Republicans were smarting over a mid-term defeat. Paul Weyrich and Gary S. Lind offered an analysis that sounds like it could have been written today:

The only surprise about the Republican debacle in the 2006 congressional elections was that many conservatives found it surprising. For at least a decade, the conservative movement has been on intellectual cruise control….Most conservatives know that liberalism suffered political eclipse as a consequence of intellectual aridity, of an agenda that had become a museum piece of New Deal-era class warfare.

Why were they surprised when a similar conservative idea deficit led to a similar electoral defeat? Just as you can’t beat something with nothing, the 2006 vote showed that conservatives can’t beat nothing with nothing.

Conservatism has become so weak in ideas that during the presidency of George W. Bush, the word “conservative” could be and was applied with scant objection to policies that were starkly anti-conservative. Americans witnessed “conservative” Wilsonianism, if not Jacobinism, in foreign policy and an unnecessary foreign war; record “conservative” trade and federal budget deficits; major “conservative” expansions of the power of the federal government at the expense of traditional liberties; and nonchalant “conservative” de-industrialization and dispossession of the middle class in the name of Ricardian free trade and Benthamite utilitarianism. No wonder the American people are confused and disillusioned by conservatism if these are its actions when in power. Were Russell Kirk still with us, what would he now call himself?

Sound familiar? The intellectual capital of the Republican party is spent. What passes for “conservatism” is too often bluster and foolishness or at least an incoherent mishmash of impulses, talking points, and sabre rattling. Mind you, the liberals have their own problems, and they are severe, but conservatives need to get their own house in order before they can present a compelling alternative (and, truth be told, the Republican party may not be the place for that to occur).

The rest of the piece outlines some ways conservatism can be revitalized. Many of the suggestions are as relevant today as they were in 2007. Read the entire piece here.

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