E.J. Dionne has an interesting read in the Washington Post this morning. His hypothesis is the current splits on issue after issue within the GOP herald the end of conservatism.
Conservatism was always a delicate balancing act between small-government economic libertarians and social traditionalists who revered family, faith and old values. The two wings were often held together by a common enemy, modern liberalism certainly, but even more so by communism until the early 1990s, and now by what some conservatives call “Islamofascism.”
President Bush, his defenders say, has pioneered a new philosophical approach, sometimes known as “big-government conservatism.” The most articulate defender of this position, the journalist Fred Barnes, argues that Bush’s view is “Hamiltonian” as in Alexander, Thomas Jefferson’s rival in the early republic. Bush’s strategy, Barnes says, “is to use government as a means to achieve conservative ends.”
Dionne is right that the splits on Iraq, stem cells, immigration, and the minimum wage have created a fissure within the GOP. The question is how can we mend that fissure, or at least mask it, and limp through to victory in the November elections. He doesn’t seem to think they can.
Based on the votes cast recently, the solution for our problems seems to be some haphazard legislative agenda in which the leadership throws a whole bunch of stuff against the wall knowing not a single piece of it will stick. When it doesn’t, we can blame the Democrats.
It’s kind of an odd strategy. It raises a lot of questions, such as:
How can you simultaneously say the Democrats will be completely ineffectual in solving these issues if elected, yet give them credit for being smart enough to bring your entire agenda to a halt?
Why will they be ineffective as a majority class if they are so effective as the minority that they have kept you from getting anything done?
How, if you have the majority, can you pass absolutely nothing?
If you can’t pass anything, what good are you as the majority anyway?
The strategy, honestly, is pretty shaky. It really relies on the voters being too uneducated abut the process to see through your flimsy argument of “Democrat Obstructionism” without questioning why they’re any less capable of actually governing.
That’s not to say I’m resolved to the idea that we will lose control of Congress. That would require not only our disintegration but also an appealing alternative offered by the Democrats that would mobilize enough people to counter our base. I don’t know if they have the ability to pull that off.
If we do survive, I hope to God we replace the leadership with either a) a group less dedicated to the goal of partisanship that will actually lead, rather than bullying, or b) a more effective group of bullies.