16 / March
16 / March
Reagan's Crying

Time magazine's lead piece, featuring a crying Ronald Reagan on the cover, details "How the Right Went Wrong." This has been a theme of this site since its inception three years ago. It's good to see a conversation among a small group of people--and let's face it, very few conservatives publicly aired their gripes about the movement three years ago--has made the big time.

The piece is at its worst when it offers prescriptions for conservatives to heal themselves. Market-friendly health care? Putting Parents First? Are you joking? These are the themes that will revitalize the conservative movement? It also suggests that conservatives might be a victim of their own successes. No conservative would make such a claim. Perhaps a 35 percent tax rate strikes Time's liberal writers as a conservative success. It strikes conservatives as too high a tax rate--even higher than the one George H.W. Bush signed into law that ignited an internecine tax fight. With a few exceptions, Richard Viguerie being an obvious one, Time relies on for quotes and analysis the same Beltway Conservatives who rah-rah'd Bush and mislead the movement into such a sorry state. This is like asking the arsonist his advice on putting out the fire.

All that said, the piece is definitely worth spending seven minutes to read. "[E]verything that Reagan said in 1985 about 'the other side' could easily apply to the conservatives of 2007," Karen Tumulty aptly writes. "They are handcuffed to a political party that looks unsettlingly like the Democrats did in the 1980s, one that is more a collection of interest groups than ideas, recognizable more by its campaign tactics than its philosophy. The principles that propelled the movement have either run their course, or run aground, or been abandoned by Reagan's legatees. Government is not only bigger and more expensive than it was when George W. Bush took office, but its reach is also longer, thanks to the broad new powers it has claimed as necessary to protect the homeland. It's true that Reagan didn't live up to everything he promised: he campaigned on smaller government, fiscal discipline and religious values, while his presidency brought us a larger government and a soaring deficit. But Bush's apostasies are more extravagant by just about any measure you pick." Yet, conservatives stood by "their" man. They stood by him in the way a battered, cheated-on, abused spouse stands by her man (his woman?). Who were conservatives going to believe? Bush or their lying eyes?

George W. Bush is Woodrow Wilson on foreign policy and Lyndon Johnson on domestic policy. What's there to like? He is called a big-government conservative, but for brevity's sake I'll just call him a liberal. Okay, okay, he nominated judges who respect the Constitution and cut taxes. But what, other than that, makes him a conservative? McCain-Feingold? Amnesty for illegal aliens? Federal funding for stem-cell research? A hare-brained, chest-thumping mission to Mars? Nation building?

Bush isn't the main culprit in the conservative movement's demise. In 2000, he promised that education would be his top priority and that he would expand Medicare benefits. On most issues, conservatives got what they voted for--which wasn't very conservative. For conservatives who didn't recognize Bush's big-government promises for what they were, there was always the clue of his last name. I would say the leaf doesn't fall too far from the tree, but that would be unfair to George H.W. Bush.

If not Bush, who's to blame for the horrid state of the conservative movement? That would be conservatives themselves, a group that set out to make the Republican Party more conservative but suceeded in making conservatives more like the Republican Party.

posted at 12:11 AM

All too painfully true. It's more like CON-servative now.

Posted by: Frank Walton on March 16, 2007 03:14 AM

Conservatism can start to make a come back with some of its alleged leaders growing sets of gonads and taking firm Reaganesque stands on what they do and what they believe.

Not that he's conservative, but Presidente El Busho is an embarrassing example of how faux conservative / Republicans are giving the movement and the party a bad name. He tucks and runs everytime there's a controversy, a non-issue or the Dems say boo.

Posted by: asdf on March 16, 2007 06:23 AM

If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is "God is crying." And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is "Probably because of something you did." -- Jack Handy

So, Time thinks that the cure for Republicans is getting back to the Reagan basics and pass a big government program that "solves" health care? We've gotten away from the small government emphasis (because we *were* in power), and so the remedy is more government programs? And let me guess, Bush can pay for it by undoing the most Reaganic thing he's done so far and reverse the tax cuts?

It's nice having the media watch out for us like that!

On a somewhat related subject, does anybody else note the full frontal nudity going on in the press right now? The president can fire all 93 US attorneys (like Clinton did without a "massacre") but it's an outrage that Bush fired 8. The mainstream press is showing it all, revealing themselves to be the party hacks they are!

Posted by: Sea King on March 16, 2007 11:47 AM

What's worse is that they were on a two year notice and were fired for job non-performance because they refused to aggressively pursue the prosecution of voter fraud, among other things. Like the Libby/Plame fiasco, it's a non-issue and it makes me sick to watch the weaklings in the party that I MUST support back up and let the looney Dems trash them.

With the help of an aggressive GOP hating Leftist press, they are in full attack mode. Mind you, as they have no answers or agenda that will help the U.S., this is what they do. But they have been successful making El Presidente Busho and his crew look like a bunch of a-holes.

Instead of traveling to Mexico, Central and South America to kiss the filthy a$$e$ of a bunch of third world mini-dictators, he should be more concerned about what's going on right here and trying to get control of the situation.

Posted by: asdf on March 16, 2007 12:39 PM

Just an aside: did I hear Mitt Romney was a Reagan conservative, despite his Mormon beliefs? Could he be the last hope to save the CON-servatives?

Posted by: Frank Walton on March 16, 2007 01:13 PM

You can act like a man!!!!!!

Posted by: Vito on March 16, 2007 02:09 PM

The two most popular Republicans are on each coast. Check the things they have in common and plot the future of the party. It.s simple.


Posted by: Guido on March 17, 2007 10:31 AM

a 35% tax rate is lower than every other developed nation.

To me its just about right, although there may be good reason to take it down to about 30, if we can be sure we cut the pork and not the good stuff from the budget.

Posted by: Rethuglican Prince on March 17, 2007 02:06 PM

Guido's comment contains a sad truth. Conservativism is in dissarray because we have been losing the battle for the hearts and minds of our people. That's why the media now cares less about appearing partisan, it's not hurting their bottom line. Most politicians won't sacrifice much popularity for a principle, so they need principles already packaged to sell and conservative intellectuals haven't been providing such packaging.

I don't blame the politicians as much as most because it is rare you get someone who cares about principles, can pitch them, and wants to pitch himself at the same time. Division of labor means others have to do the work of packaging conservative ideas in a way that appeals to today's audiences.

The challenge is great. A rich people tends to get intellectually lazy and self-absorbed. They want to help others as long as that means they don't have to think about others very much or very hard. All of America becomes more and more like Hollywood. A republic requires a different kind of citizen. The leftist grip on the media and other educational institutions, leaves few channels in which to counter this tendency.

First we need new "Bill Buckleys" who can create the setting for new "Ronald Reagans."

Otherwise, Republicans will follow the path Guido suggests, and America will become another European "democracy" unable to defend itself internally or externally.

Posted by: DocMcG on March 17, 2007 09:55 PM

One thing that's interesting to consider is just what a poor job the movement has done of grooming future political leaders. None of the Republican presidents of the last half-century was a product of the movement's institutions, not even Goldwater (who predated most of them) or Reagan (who also predated most of them). Look at the leaders who *did* come from the movement, from outfits like Young Americans for Freedom: anyone remember Rep. Robert Bauman? The College Republicans have given us Rove, Norquist, and Rep. "Buz" Lukens. Morton Blackwell talks about the difference between activists who want to be someone and those who want to do something. Judging from the way most of these guys have behaved once they've got close to power, we'd have to conclude that all of them were just in it to be someone. (Ironically, Bauman, who was destroyed by a gay sex scandal, would probably be the best of the bunch.)

Even allowing that politics is naturally a cesspool, why is it the conservative movement has failed to spectacularly to cultivate political leaders who can adhere to a few basic philosphical principles and standards of morality?

There are now a few hundred millions of dollars, at least, floating around the conservative movement's think tanks and magazines and lobbies, and all that money has mostly bought us crooks and careerists. As George Nash, who's actually much more optimistic, recently quoted someone else as saying, "Every movement begins as a religion, turns into a business, and winds up as a scam." But even a scam can be lucrative, and until the money dries up I'm not sure there's any real incentive to fix the movement's problems.

Posted by: Daniel McCarthy on March 20, 2007 12:39 AM
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