E.J. Dionne Jr.’s Outlook article about conservatism’s recent disinclination toward compromise has provoked more than 4,100 comments. Moderation, Dionne writes, has been excised from conservative political campaigns, replacing an old-fashioned conservative value of community — entailing compromise, caution and comity — with a focus on the individual.
The new conservative model, Dionne writes, is almost entirely ideological — all about less taxes, less government and not giving an inch. It’s ugly, he says, and deeply impractical. Once elected, people who are all about being anti-government have trouble reconciling that position with the need to, y’know, govern. Paralyzing gridlock results.
Predictably, our commenters agreed and disagreed, but an interesting thread arose about exactly why this paralysis is happening now. Is it a general erosion of gentility, or the Internets, or dadblamed kids today? No, many commenters contend this shift is almost overdue — an inevitable and predictable effect of the etiology and nature of conservatism itself.
Spectator1 thinks conservatism grows out of the thinking in small communities and, in the end, can’t really be a model for cities and countries:
Conservatives have rejected the system: It’s too big and involves too many strangers with too many diverse ways and opinions. They have had enough of the great experiment, they want things that seem more familiar to them, again. They want less society, more intimate and easier to manage society, not what we have.
TyrantofReason thinks a model of smaller government might work if conservatism would moderate its view on taxes. The way, counsels The Tyrant, is to make the nature of taxation acceptable to conservatives by turning it into their beloved issue of States’ Rights:
I wonder: would Republicans support high(ish) taxes if they went to state or local government? What if social services were managed and administered by state and municipalities and the federal government just made sure that these smaller governments played by the rules (such as: not discriminating against people due to race or gender).
Could this be a way out of the messy tax debate?
Sold2u has a conclusion that frankly startles us here in the PostScript bunker. That conservatism thing — the thing that keeps winning elections and getting applause in speeches and swinging the country and funding think tanks? Sold tries to sell us a novel idea: It’s never actually existed in government form. Electing conservatives, Sold2u argues, doesn’t make the conservative system happen:
Even now, the disagreement between the current parties basically falls along how fast to grow government spending.
We have never even tried conservative government.
Interesting. Well, that certainly makes it easier to argue about whether it has ever worked.
Mljr, though, thinks the current conservative rhetorical model has been tried, just not in the United States. And mljr argues this using one of PostScript’s favorite rhetorical tricks — quoting a New York Times columnist at length.
In this case, the columnist is Nicholas Kristof, suggesting where conservatism has been applied with great success:
It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country: fewer than 2 percent of the people pay any taxes. Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs. This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t imaginable, and criminals are never coddled. The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution. When generals decide on a policy for, say, Afghanistan, politicians defer to them. Citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags. So what is this Republican Eden, this Utopia? Why, it’s Pakistan.