By J.D. Thorpe
Conservatism: Back from the Dead
Amidst the exuberant celebration of Obama’s election in 2008, many
liberal talking heads pronounced the death of conservatism. Yet just
two short years later, the Republicans are poised to overwhelm the
Democrats in the midterm elections. RealClearPolitics predicts that the
GOP will gain eight seats in the Senate, six governorships, and
approximately fifty seats in the House. What has spurred this reverse
The day after the election E.J. Dionne, an opinion writer for The
Washington Post stated, “In choosing Obama and a strongly Democratic
Congress, the country put a definitive end to a conservative era.” He
went on to denounce the concepts of limited government and market
capitalism as impractical ideas.
New York Times Book Review Editor, Sam Tanenhaus performed what he
labeled an “intellectual autopsy” of the conservative movement in a New
Republic article in February 2009. Tanenhaus declared that “what
conservatives have yet to do is confront the large but inescapable
truth that movement conservatism is exhausted and quite possibly dead.”
He cited the “blind faith” that conservatives have for deregulation and
a unilateral foreign policy.
For starters, someone should bring a malpractice suit against Tanenhaus
for conducting an autopsy on a living and vibrant movement.
Nevertheless, despite the flaws in analysis, Dionne and Tanenhaus
should not be completely dismissed as liberal quacks. Both partially
stumbled across the salient problems with the conservative movement but
cited the wrong reasons for its shortcomings.
The main failure of the conservative movement during the past decade
was its refusal to remain principled. Big Government Republicans turned
their backs on limited government ideas and ushered in a wave of new
bureaucracies and regulations.
In 2001, President Bush signed into law “No Child Left Behind.” This
law increased the federal bureaucracy in education and contributed
billions of dollars to the federal budget in addition to hundreds of
millions of dollars in compliance costs for the states. This is not a
conservative policy. Most conservatives want to abolish the Department
of Education, not expand it.
Conservatives also need to stop allowing the neocons to define
conservatism; they are not true conservatives. The great conservative
icon and Ohio Senator, Robert Taft, did not subscribe to using U.S.
resources to promote democracy around the globe. Rather, Taft pursued a
foreign policy that supported America’s interests. Taft set the model
for which all conservatives should try to emulate. He supported a
reasonable, limited foreign policy, reduced spending, held
anti-Keynesian views, and vociferously opposed the New Deal.
We cannot hope for an army of Robert Tafts. It is well known that men
are very flawed beings. Acknowledgement of this is best articulated by
Lord Acton who said, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts
absolutely.” Unfortunately, politics tends to attract the very worst
types of personalities and this quite often includes Republicans. We
have strayed far from the Founders vision of the disinterested
politician and Washington’s example of resigning his commission as
Commander in Chief at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.
The tea party identified conservative candidates and supported their
primary bids, most of which are likely to win in the general election.
But the citizens can not sit back and hope for the best from our
elected officials and no longer can conservatives afford to act as
cheerleaders to policies and legislation that are not in line with our
On November 2, conservatives will see the political shift they seek
come to fruition as their candidates are elected into office. But we
must recognize that the work has only just begun. The momentum has
turned in our favor because limited government is a core American
value. It is our job to speak out against the abuse of power regardless
of the identity of the culprit. If the conservative politicians do not
pursue the government minimalist agenda they preached on the campaign
trail, liberals may succeed next time in burying us alive.
This article was published on Townhall.com on October 29, 2010.