June 21, 2005


Cheer Up, Conservatives!: You're still winning. (JOHN MICKLETHWAIT AND ADRIAN WOOLDRIDGE, June 21, 2005, Opinion Journal)

[I]t is time for conservatives to cheer up. Fixate on a snapshot of recent events and pessimism makes sense. Stand back and look at the grand sweep of things and the darkness soon lifts. There are two questions that really matter in assessing the current state of conservatism: What direction is America moving in? And how does the United States compare with the rest of the world? The answer to both questions should encourage the right.

The Republicans have by far the most powerful political machine in the country. Last November, the Democrats threw everything they had at George Bush, from the pent-up fury of a "stolen election" to the millions of George Soros. Liberals outspent and out-ranted conservatives, and pushed up Democratic turnout by 12%. But the Republicans increased their turnout by a fifth.

Crucially, George Bush won as a conservative: He did not "triangulate" or hide behind a fuzzy "Morning in America" message. Against the background of an unpopular war and an arguably dodgy economy, he positioned himself to the right, betting that conservative America was bigger than liberal America. And it was: The exit polls showed both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry won 85% of their base, but self-described "conservatives" accounted for nearly a third of the electorate while liberals were only a fifth. Mr. Bush could afford to lose "moderates" to Mr. Kerry by nine points--and still end up with 51% of the vote, more than any Democrat has got since 1964. [...]

The essential conservatism of Mr. Bush's approach is all the clearer if you compare it with the big-government liberalism of the 1960s--or with the big-government reality of European countries that American liberals are so keen to emulate. Mr. Bush is not using government to redistribute wealth (unless you own an oil company), to reward sloth or to coddle the poor. And government in America remains a shriveled thing by European standards. Some 40 years after the Great Society, America still has no national health service; it asks students to pay as much as $40,000 a year for a university education; it gives mothers only a few weeks of maternity leave.

What about values? Back in the 1960s, it was axiomatic amongst the elite that religion was doomed. In "The Secular City" (1965), Harvey Cox argued that Christianity had to come to terms with a secular culture. Now religion of the most basic sort is back with a vengeance. The president, his secretary of state, the House speaker and Senate majority leader are all evangelical Christians. Ted Haggard, the head of the 30-million strong National Association of Evangelicals, jokes that the only disagreement between himself and the leader of the Western world is automotive: Mr. Bush drives a Ford pickup, whereas he prefers a Chevy.

Rather than dying a slow death, evangelical Protestantism and hard-core Catholicism are bursting out all over the place. Who would have predicted, back in the 1960s, the success of "The Passion of the Christ," the "Left Behind" series or "The Purpose Driven Life"? To be sure, liberals still control universities, but, thanks to its rive droite of think tanks in Washington and many state capitals, the right has a firm control of the political-ideas business.

Indeed, the left has reached the same level of fury that the right reached in the 1960s--but with none of the intellectual inventiveness. [...]

The biggest advantage of all for conservatives is that they have a lock on the American dream. America is famously an idea more than a geographical expression, and that idea seems to be the province of the right. A recent Pew Research Center Survey, "Beyond Red Versus Blue," shows that the Republicans are more optimistic, convinced that the future will be better than the past and that they can determine their own futures. Democrats, on the other hand, have a European belief that "fate," or, in modern parlance, social circumstances, determines people's lot in life.

We're not the Stupid Party for nothing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 21, 2005 6:53 AM

"Better Red than Dead" lives on as a philosophy of the fetalists.

Posted by: Genecis at June 21, 2005 1:28 PM