The Conservative Crackup

It Was Obama's Victory, Not Liberalism's
E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
Nov. 5 2008 2:19 PM

The Conservative Crackup

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Tucker, Ross, Doug, Jim, and Kathleen,

As conservatives, we have some questions to ask ourselves today. Has the country really embraced the idea of "redistributing the wealth"? Are Americans convinced that Washington is going to have the answers to all our needs? I don't think so. One pollster I heard zeroed in on people's obsession with Barack Obama the person, not necessarily Obama the ideology, and I have to agree. When the dust settles, I don't think we'll find a liberally recalibrated nation on our hands. Obama's victory showed that the majority of the American people aren't narrow-minded and don't object to bipartisan policy solutions.

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I see this election as being more about hope than just change. It was about the hope that we can and should expect more out of our government—an area where Republicans have disappointed, but economic conservatism has not. This election was a clear repudiation of the last eight years. I can't tell you how many longtime Republicans have been in touch with me to say that they really wanted to vote for John McCain but couldn't accept the rightward tilt of the campaign, which they had seen too much of during the Bush administration. Thomas Friedman said it well in today's New York Times:

Bush & Co. did not believe that government could be an instrument of the common good. They neutered their cabinet secretaries and appointed hacks to big jobs. For them, pursuit of the common good was all about pursuit of individual self-interest. Voters rebelled against that. But there was also a rebellion against a traditional Democratic version of the common good—that it is simply the sum of all interest groups clamoring for their share.

What this means for Republicans and what this means for conservatives are two different things. For economic conservatives, we have to examine where we fit in American politics today—sadly, the party that used to represent us has strayed from the fundamentals. I hope that our home will lie with the GOP in the future, but that is not a given in light of the last eight years.

For the GOP, I hope that we are investing time in figuring out how to hold a coalition of economic conservatives, social moderates and conservatives, and foreign-policy conservatives under one umbrella. As Ross implied, we must resist the temptation to form a circular firing squad that casts blame on one or the other faction within the party. I, for one, am content to have the GOP wander in the Obama wilderness for four years if it forces my party to have a serious self-examination.

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