October 22, 2004


Ideology vs. Practicality - A Hamiltonian GOP? (Adam Yoshida, September 10, 2004, Insight)

One of the things we've witnessed over the past decade or so is
nothing less than the birth of an entirely new ideology in modern

As anyone who watched the Republican National Convention last week can attest, the modern Republican Party is not exactly the party of Barry Goldwater or even, quite, that of Ronald Reagan.

While this is in some ways a lamentable development (I shuddered inwardly every time someone started talked about increased funding for some social program) it is also probably a necessary one.

The conservatism that Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and Newt Gingrich campaigned upon was a very admirable political ideology, but not a functioning governing philosophy.

It's nice to talk about throwing out the New Deal, banning abortion, or junking the Department of Education: but, short of a violent revolution, it isn't going to happen.

This is to be lamented, of course, but it is also something that must be accepted. Reagan himself governed far less conservatively than he campaigned (both when he was Governor of California and when he was President) because government-by-absolute-ideology is impossible in a democracy.

This is one reason I very rapidly lose patience with those so-called 'conservatives' who are prepared to abandon President Bush over this or that issue. [...]

Absolutist social conservatism and anti-government rhetoric are very appealing to some voters, but they aren't principles which you can effectively govern upon. You might win an election on that platform, if you find a perfect storm, but the odds are that you'd win exactly that one and then see all of your reforms overturned in less than two years.

This is not to counsel defeatism: real change is possible and real
action, real conservative action, remains the goal: but it cannot be achieved overnight and victory cannot be gained without sacrifice.

Because, over a number of generations, the Republican Party has become America's majority party it has had to transform its philosophy from that of an opposition to that of a government. When you're in opposition you can scream about whatever you like, you can tar the governing party for everything that goes wrong, and you can subsist on the twin illusions that both there can be a perfect government and that you can provide that government.

Such moral clarity, however, fades quickly once one is handed the actual task of governing. This pertinent fact is fully recognized by Newt himself, as he's made clear in recent years as a commentator. In fact, I suspect it may have been what he had in mind all along.

A sign of maturity is making peace with the world as it is. You need not be happy with how things are, but you must accept that things cannot be changed overnight and that man cannot be altered by fiat.

The new conservatism is the old conservatism after it graduated from college, got married, bought a house, and had two kids. It still doesn't like big government, but understands that it has to be accommodated to a reasonable degree. It doesn't like to see America, in Robert Bork's memorable phrase, "slouching towards Gomorrah" but understands that mere screaming will do nothing to change it and will, in fact, render the forces of conservatism incapable of achieving even half of what they sought to do in the first place.

Now, some people have suggested that the present Republican Party is similar to the Democratic Party of the Truman Era. I reject that suggestion, and here's why: the goal of the Democrats of that era in using government was to assist the people. The goal of the new Republicans is to use the government to strengthen the nation. These are fundamentally different concepts.

You can call it "Compassionate Conservatism" or "Bush Conservatism" or "Neo-conservatism": all of those names apply to some degree. To put it most simply, it is a mature conservatism.

The name I prefer is "Hamiltonian Conservatism", in honor of the man whose vision made him the true father of modern America and whose ideas, in which a strong and effective central government was to be used to make the nation stronger, are seemingly the basis of this new (and old) ideology.

The reason this election matters so much to Democrats that it's causing them to become deranged is because the compassionate conservativism of George Bush is indeed the kind of practical governing philosophy that can make the GOP a permanent majority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 22, 2004 8:04 AM

Another reason may be that the Democrats - controlled by the extreme Left - know that the party is as good as dead if they avoid the necessary housecleanung to rid themselves of the socialist/communist coalition in their midst.

Posted by: Oswald Booth Czolgosz at October 22, 2004 11:05 AM
"Absolutist social conservatism and anti-government rhetoric are very appealing to some voters, but they aren't principles which you can effectively govern upon."


The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at October 22, 2004 11:09 AM

It's even better than that. Consider the results of that high-school mock election. Talk to young people. It a very different world and an even more different one is coming.

If conservatives keep our heads on straight, avoid obsolete, doctrinaire positions, the future looks very bright. The New Deal generation is checking out, and the draft-dodger generation will follow them, and all things shall be made new.

Posted by: Lou Gots` at October 22, 2004 3:33 PM

The Democrats are in thrall to the interest groups that pay the bills, and those groups are much further away from the 'American mainstream' than all but the goofiest Religious Right types(yes Reconstructionists, this means YOU) are.

Posted by: Bart at October 22, 2004 4:21 PM