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conservatism

At least since the election of St. Ronald Reagan, self-styled conservatives have repeatedly revealed themselves to be the biggest frauds or most delusional suckers in American politics. Conservatives ostensibly believe in limited government and individuals who are smart and moral enough to use voluntary associations and free markets to meet the needs of all God’s children. But under Reagan and, more recently, George W. Bush and a Republican Congress that spent like LBJ on a bourbon-fueled bender, they cheered an immense increase not just in federal outlays and borrowing but also in centralization of power in Washington. The “FDR Democrat” Reagan saved entitlements for the old and the relatively wealthy by jacking up payroll taxes on the young and relatively poor. Bush and his congressional playmates created No Child Left Behind, the Medicare prescription-drug plan, the Transportation Security Administration and at least two wars that can only be reckoned tragic wastes of blood and treasure. Q: Is there a crisis in the conservative movement?

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It seems that those who call themselves conservatives and liberals today by and large emphasize their rights rather than duties; they show precious little concern for the past, both as a repository for knowledge or as a source of duties; and they tend to speak in the glowing terms of progress. Finally, they all too often lack the humility that the conservative feels deep in his bones. The conservative knows that all good things are at root a gift. This disposition of gratitude fosters humility, and humility is necessary if we are to live responsibly, for humility acknowledges limits and a denial of limits is a key feature of the liberal mind. When we consider all of this in light of our current political climate, it becomes clear that the apparent differences between conservatives and liberals in America today are far less dramatic than we are often tempted to believe. What we have is a variety of liberals, some more radical than others, but a truly conservative position is illusive and, what is more important, probably not desired by most of the electorate; although, there is always a remnant, and this remnant, I believe, would grow if a truly conservative alternative was articulated in a clear and compelling way. Of course, Rush Limbaugh and the folks at Fox News—those standard bearers of “conservatism”—will find this analysis implausible, for their deepest commitments are to the very things that are antithetical to a legitimate and historically informed conservatism. Nevertheless, any attempt to continue using this fine word should include a conscious effort to resist abusing it for the purpose of political gain. It is, after all, a word worth conserving. Conservative in America

I’m not sure that the term “anti-establishment conservative” means anything when it encompasses the likes of Palin, Cain, and Perry. If there are conservatives who think that backing Gingrich is a way to stick it to the powers-that-be in their party, they have already been defeated. An “anti-establishment” protest that makes Gingrich its standard-bearer has zero credibility. It isn’t just that Gingrich and his recent record embody virtually everything that many conservative activists loathe, but that he is winning some of them over by using the most superficial cultural and rhetorical cues available. Conservative Gingrich supporters are at a point where their identity politics and policy-free pseudo-populism have become self-parodying. Eunomia

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