President Bush, his defenders say, has pioneered a new philosophical approach, sometimes known as "big-government conservatism." The most articulate defender of this position, the journalist Fred Barnes, argues that Bush's view is "Hamiltonian" as in Alexander, Thomas Jefferson's rival in the early republic. Bush's strategy, Barnes says, "is to use government as a means to achieve conservative ends."Dionne points out the most recent example of this collapse.
Kudos to Barnes for trying bravely to make sense of what to so many others -- including some in conservative ranks -- seems an incoherent enterprise. But I would argue that this is the week in which conservatism, Hamiltonian or not, reached the point of collapse.
The most obvious, outrageous and unprincipled spasm occurred last night when the Senate voted on a bill that would have simultaneously raised the minimum wage and slashed taxes on inherited wealth.He concludes with this:
Rarely has our system produced a more naked exercise in opportunism than this measure. Most conservatives oppose the minimum wage on principle as a form of government meddling in the marketplace. But moderate Republicans in jeopardy this fall desperately wanted an increase in the minimum wage.
So the seemingly ingenious Republican leadership, which dearly wants deep cuts in the estate tax, proposed offering nickels and dimes to the working class to secure billions for the rich. Fortunately, though not surprisingly, the bill failed.
The episode was significant because it meant Republicans were acknowledging that they would not hold congressional power without the help of moderates. That is because there is nothing close to a conservative majority in the United States.
Political movements lose power when they lose their self-confidence and sense of mission. Liberalism went into a long decline after 1968 when liberals clawed at each other more than they battled conservatives -- and when they began to wonder whether their project was worth salvaging.I think Dionne misses the real problem, the complete and absolute failure of the neocon ideology. After nearly six years the neocons don't have one single success they can claim as their own. The US is less safe than it was the day after 911. The Army is not combat ready and bogged down in a quagmire in Iraq. The US support for Israel may make them even more vulnerable than they were already. Nearly everything Bush and the cons have done has been a great terrorist recruiting aid. Would there be a challenge to Joe Lieberman in there were no Iraq? No!
Between now and November, conservative leaders will dutifully try to rally the troops to stave off a Democratic victory. But their hearts won't be in the fight. The decline of conservatism leaves a vacuum in American politics. An unhappy electorate is waiting to see who will fill it.
Steve Soto has some ideas on how A Lieberman Loss Will Change Behavior.
There have been many Beltway Democrats and pundits who have opined that a Lieberman loss would be crippling for the Democratic Party because it would somehow unleash an extremist, toxic cloud over the party at a time when it is on the verge of regaining power this November. Rubbish. Those are the ramblings and whinings of access-hungry, cowering members of the media who were only too willing to allow this cabal to lead us into this illegal war, or the pitiful wails of Democrats too afraid to go against the Rove smear machine and who would rather back their way into a victory this November as GOP-lite.As we pointed out here this is less about Lieberman than it is an attempt to defend the entire political aristocracy in DC, both politicians and pundits. So what will really be the result of a Lamont win? Steve has some ideas:
More likely, a Lieberman loss will force the media to acknowledge that the war is not just an issue for the crazies, but for a large part of the country as well. More than half of the country now wants our troops out of Iraq in 12 months. More than half of the country thinks that Bush has no clear Iraq policy, definition of victory, or idea of how to get out. And the polls have shown for months that a majority is now against the war, thinks the war has done little to make us safer, and is not worth the losses we have suffered. But now that a member of the Beltway elite like Lieberman is staring down the prospect of being bounced from office over the war, the media or punditocracy suddenly no longer ascribes his opposition to crazy leftists but rather to a more broadbased and growing opposition to this war.Sorry Joe but no body likes a loser. The world will never be the same after August 9th.
Similarly, if Lieberman loses next Tuesday, watch the Beltway Democrats change their tune as well. There will be more challenges of Bush over foreign policy and Iraq, and the messaging will be a little bolder. Democrats may actually crawl out from under their rocks and regain their spines, all at Joe's expense. And if that happens, then we can thank Joe for something after all.