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Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Fall of Conservatism?

It seems a bit premature to say the current lame brand of conservatism in the U.S. is falling. For all its faults, it seems oddly resilient. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading George Packer's recent article in the New Yorker (in the print version, thankfully).
When I met David Brooks in Washington, he was even more scathing than Frum. Brooks had moved through every important conservative publication—National Review, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Washington Times, the Weekly Standard—“and now I feel estranged,” he said. “I just don’t feel it’s exciting, I don’t feel it’s true, fundamentally true.” In the eighties, when he was a young movement journalist, the attacks on regulation and the Soviet Union seemed “true.” Now most conservatives seem incapable of even acknowledging the central issues of our moment: wage stagnation, inequality, health care, global warming. They are stuck in the past, in the dogma of limited government. Perhaps for that reason, Brooks left movement journalism and, in 2003, became a moderately conservative columnist for the Times. “American conservatives had one defeat, in 2006, but it wasn’t a big one,” he said. “The big defeat is probably coming, and then the thinking will happen. I have not yet seen the major think tanks reorient themselves, and I don’t know if they can.” He added, “You go to Capitol Hill—Republican senators know they’re fucked. They have that sense. But they don’t know what to do. There’s a hunger for new policy ideas.” (emphasis mine)
They might be stuck in the "dogma" of limited government but they haven't even been practicing it while in office (Packer gets into that a bit). This section is all David Brooks, add global poverty and inequality to his "central issues of our moment" list and maybe we've got a good start. The article goes on to describe a few younger conservatives appealing to the older generation to stop pushing the "head in the sand" approach to governing.

Andrew Sullivan has a response to the article. More responses on Packer's recent blog post.

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