Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Are Conservatives Republican Enough to Win in 2008?

As this article from The Wall Street Journal points out, many Republicans who look at the 2006 midterm election results explain it this way: Republicans lost because they weren't conservative enough.

But there may be a good argument that, as this article implies, the real reason can be formulated in the opposite way: Conservatives lost because they weren't Republican enough.

It's an intriguing idea.

For more than a century, the Republican Party has been generally characterized by belief in:
  • Foreign policy realism
  • Frugal spending
  • Small government
  • Strict constructionist interpretations of the Constitution
To some extent, the Democratic Party has been conversely characterized by its belief in:
  • Foreign policy idealism
  • Bigger spending
  • Activist government
  • Expansive constructions of the Constitution
Arguments can be made for the validity of both parties' approaches, of course.

And Republicans and Democrats have departed from their parties' orthodoxies:
  • Theodore Roosevelt, who borrowed the African maxim, "Speak softly and carry a big stick," a classic statement of the realist school of foreign policy, nonetheless violated the notion of the restrained, implied use of power by taking Panama in order to build a canal. Eisenhower approved the toppling of one Iranian government and the enthronement of the Shah.
  • Bill Clinton, after the 1994 midterm elections handed his party major losses, declared at the next State of the Union message that the era of big government was over.
  • Richard Nixon started the Environmental Protection Agency and Theodore Roosevelt got our national park system going in a big way.
  • Jimmy Carter repeatedly got himself into trouble with Democratic majorities in the Congress while enjoying generally good relations with conservative Republicans because of his emphasis on frugality.
But, broadly speaking, the foregoing bullet pointed characterizations have been among the core principles of the two parties over the past one-hundred years. In various circumstances, they've proved to be convincing formulas for them at the polls and effective principles for policy.

But, with the rise of neoconservatism, Republicans in both the White House and the Congress appeared to set a different course. It seemed to marry conservative ends with Democratic means.

The question is: If conservatives acted more like traditional Republicans, would they have a better chance of winning in 2008?

Read the entire WSJ piece.

[For a discussion of foreign policy traditions in the US, see here.]

[Cross-posted at RedBlueChristian.]

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