Tuesday, March 25, 2008
WASHINGTON—What’s the matter with conservatism?
Its problems start with the failure of George W. Bush’s presidency but they don’t end there. Inequality is rising and working-class voters are being hammered. The cost and availability of health coverage are a big problem, and some Republicans don’t want to talk about that simply because they see it as a “Democratic issue.”
Don’t take my word on this. The themes I just outlined come from two important new books written by conservatives. The authors are worried about their movement’s future, and accept—to use the language directed once upon a time against liberals—that the right is tired, short of ideas and mired in the past.
The appearance of these books is a sign of something deeper: Much as liberals and Democrats realized in the 1980s that their side needed to rethink old assumptions, the shrewdest conservatives understand that the old faith, if it goes unreformed, is in danger of dying out.
David Frum, a one-time speech writer for President Bush and the author of “Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again,” says nice things about the president but concedes he has “led his party to the brink of disaster.”
Frum is not one of those conservatives who think that running against government is always the right thing. “There are things only government can do,” he writes, “and if we conservatives wish to be entrusted with the management of the government, we must prove that we care enough about government to manage it well.”
Many on the right think there is no problem with conservatism today that doing a better job of imitating Ronald Reagan wouldn’t solve. But the 1980s were a long time ago. What made Reagan great, Frum argues, “was his ability to respond to the demands of his times. We must respond to the demands of ours.”...(Click here for remainder of article.)