Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Conservatism Matures

TO THE SURPRISE, AND no doubt, dismay of many conservatives, Bill Kristol closes his November 17 column for The Weekly Standard, with earnest congratulations for Barack Obama and suggests, of all things, support:

We at The Weekly Standard congratulate Barack Obama on his impressive victory. We pledge our support for those of his policies we can support, our willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt in cases of uncertainty, and our constructive criticism and loyal opposition where we are compelled to differ. We hope President Obama's policies and decisions will strengthen the nation he will now lead, and that our country and the cause of freedom in the world will emerge from the next four or eight years even stronger than they are today.
Conservatism has always been more persuasive as an idea than a project, and to be sure, Kristoll is an idealist. Moreover, through a combination of economic extremis and a slightly more progressive American mainstream, intellectual conservatism finds itself in a tough place. Having been forced to hitch its wagon to the bigger, more powerful social conservative horse, it has been dragged around through the mud and muck, with no one of any real strength on the reins. But, social conservatism seems to have gone the way of the wagon, leaving more moderate conservative thinkers wandering around the trail, not sure where to go.

In the old days, most Republicans would take this opportunity to set Obama in opposition to mainstream America, but Obama's views pretty much mirror mainstream America. This makes things even more difficult for conservative idealogues. Kristol's stance signals a major shift in how intellectual conservatives see the immediate future. Perhaps their best hope is, ironically, in Obama.

The election of Obama solidifies America's move to the center. Many liberals claim the first Black president indicates a sharp move left, but, Obama is a centrist, and this past election (think Proposition 8 here in California) simply reinforces America's political (and social) middle of the roadness. More Americans probably agree with Kristol than Bill O'Reilly just as they likely find resonance with Keith Olberman more than Michael Moore.

One wonders, then, if Mr. Kristol's comments are more than a congratulation--perhaps they are also a valediction: a goodbye to the hate mongering of Rush Limbaugh and Mike Savage; a farewell to the anti-Christian rhetoric of James Dobson and Jerry Falwell; a so long to the smug vacuousness of Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly.

Though they may never admit it, intellectual conservatism is, in actuality, a centrist stance. It tends to be agnostic on religious/moral issues, arguing instead for issues of public policy like smaller government, lower taxes, lighter regulations, and a stronger military. It's more about how government governs than how individuals make decisions.

Kristol's comments set him apart from those conservatives who are on a mission of conversion, revealing instead a man wooed by ideas--the very engine driving the Obama campaign.

We at The Weekly Rader congratulate William Kristol on his impressive column. We pledge our support for those of his ideas we can support, and our willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt in cases of uncertainty, and our constructive criticism and loyal opposition where we are compelled to differ. We are confident that in the next four or eight years, we may see him and Hillary Clinton giving each other the dap.

1 comment:

  1. I like this post, though I don't know if one person congratulating a popular democrat officially signals the right's move to the middle.