masthead-highres

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Conservatism Not Splitting

I've been reading and hearing sentiments like this -- namely, that the conservative coalition is heading for a split between small-government "libertarians" and social conservatives for something like 25 years now. I assume it went on before that, but I wasn't yet noticing.

Considering that this split has supposedly been imminent for a quarter century or more, it sure is overdue.

That's because it is not happening. I could go on and on about why, but I will be succinct instead. This will require some use of generalizations, so be warned in advance about that.

First, the social conservatives want smaller government. Aka, Grover Norquist's "leave us alone coalition." Small-government/libertarian conservatives love to threaten social conservatives with departure in part because many moderates are embarrassed about being aligned with the un-hip social conservatives. (By the way, are we still in high school?) If the libertarians ever out-recruit the social conservatives the social conservatives will probably just ask them if they plain to support the appointment of activist judges. If they don't the social conservatives will be happy and if they do they actually are liberals.

Second, of Bill of INDC Journal's threat ("One day [we moderates] simply snap, our better judgment overwhelmed by a wacky sense of humor and stewing anger, and you'll wake up to a nightmarish world where the senior senator from Mass rides into the sunset as SecState and Billary is floating doomed socialized medicine schemes out of the Oval again."): Been there, done that. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton. Every time you do that, the country comes back, righter than ever. In fact, you wandering "moderates" helped get us Reagan (response to Carter) and the Republican Congress (response to Clinton). Every time the coalition squabbles, it gets reminded of the importance of sticking together. And a few million other people are reminded, too.

Third, it is silly to draw excessive conclusions from who speaks at CPAC. Aside from the big names, CPAC panelists and speakers tend to be chosen by the sponsors. If you care about who speaks, instead of talking about taking one's chips and going home, become a sponsor of the thing. Any group big enough to be worth keeping in the coalition will find no difficulty doing all the sponsoring it needs to do. (Hint: Send in a check.) Similarly, the CPAC audience is not a demographically pure slice of modern American conservatism -- neither are Ann Coulter's fans. Draw conclusions from who boos at what and what you have learned is -- the opinion of the people who booed. The very people who booed a defense of President Bush's immigration proposal voted for, why, could it be -- President Bush? They probably volunteered for him, too, and gave his campaign some of their money. This is a split? It sure looks like a governing coalition to me.

Fourth, political movements that stop having debates (modern American leftism, I am speaking about you) sicken and die. Differences of opinion among groups and individuals in the conservative coalition are a sign of intellectual strength and vitality. If you consider yourself part of the conservative coalition but have a point of view, whatever it might be, that is not currently dominant within the coalition, here's two possibilities: 1) You and your allies aren't very good at explaining why you are right, or 2) You're not right. Work on it.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:00 AM

Copyright The National Center for Public Policy Research