Thursday, December 18, 2008

Conservatives: Then and Now

From 1970 to 2008, what's changed in American Conservative circles? Lemos says not much:

It is perhaps premature to pronounce American conservatism dead though well it should be. The conservative movement is, however, rather moribund, bereft of any new ideas on anything of consequence from health care to energy to climate change to the economy. What does conservatism stand for in 2008 that they didn't stand for it in 1980? Maybe I am missing something for all I hear is a tired catechism of "lower taxes," "limited government," "free markets," "balance budgets," "family values," and a "strong military" which really means "empire" in their parlance.

But this conservative agenda has run its course even if a large swath of the American public still recite its ethos for by any objective measure, American conservatism has failed.
This isn't to say a political ideology must change for the sake of change or be destined to fail, but it seems impossible that in 38 years, no cultural change or social influence has attempted alter conservative ideology alone (while all other ideologies have evolved drastically). I would argue that such influences have appealed to conservatives, and been stubbornly rejected by the accepted spokespeople of the movement.

If American Conservativism is in it's last throws, it is from self inflicted wounds, not an innate failure of the ideology's potential.


  1. Interesting idea. Isn't the main idea of conservatism that you keep doing things based on time-tested principles (limited government, family values,etc.) that work even when people of other ideologies try to tell you they don't work? E.g. One little recession caused in large part by government doesn't convince me to change my belief that limited government and low taxes are good.

    I love how people who are not conservative try to define conservatism and claim that it's dying.

  2. Even more humorous is the idea that in order to understand a concept (in this case conservativism) one must subscribe and be a part of that same concept. Which is of course a ludicrous assertion too often repeated as a small minded defense from legitimate discussion.

    And an ideology must also adapt and stay current with changes in social trends and public attitudes in order to stay relevant. Conservativism is dying because the concept is bereft of ideas that speak to the concerns and solutions more and more Americans care about and want to see addressed.