Thursday, May 11, 2006

The "Balkanization" of Conservatism

Today's Washington Post includes an analysis of the abandonment by core some conservatives of both the Bush administration and Republicans in congress. Though the cracks in conservative support are now obvious, their origins date to the beginning of the "conservative coalition."

WaPo posits that "Bush won two presidential elections by pursuing a political and governing model that was predicated on winning and sustaining the loyal backing of social, economic and foreign policy conservatives." Therein lies the problem....expand Winning the "loyal backing" was the easy part. As with any coalition, the individual interest groups are initially willing to subvert their differences in order to achieve a grander goal, namely the power to govern. Once power to govern has been achieved the partisan bickering begins as each interest group within the coalition attempts to assert the primacy of its particular agenda. The problem is that the differences between "social, economic and foreign policy conservatives" cannot be reconciled.

The current condition of the conservative coalition is the inevitable result of the formation of a ruling coalition from such strange bedfellows. It seems to me impossible to reconcile either imperialism or the erosion of civil liberties with "smaller government." Waging war costs a lot of taxpayer dollars, as does snooping on the citizenry. I have a difficult time even imagining a civil conversation between a libertarian and either a Dobsonite or a WOT nut.

The supporters of smaller government seemed at first to have the upper hand. Tax cuts would force a Republican congress to reduce the size of the federal government, right? Well, maybe not so much. The attacks of 9/11 gave the imperialists and the super snoopers the opening they needed, deficits be damned. After a natural disaster and a little fear-mongering Congress started writing blank checks that the President was more than happy to sign. The ensuing orgy of corruption was likewise inevitable. Anyone with a sense of common decency (which conservatives claim as a conservative value) ought to be embarassed.

Rove thinks he can galvanize the coalition with "votes on tax cuts, a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, new abortion restrictions, and measures to restrain government spending." It seems to me that the tail continues to wag the dog. Restrain government spending first. That probably requires withdrawal from Iraq. Clean the sleaze out of the Republican party. Everything else will have to wait, because none of the rest is truly a core conservative value.

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