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The End Of the Right?

On immigration, the big-business right and culturally optimistic conservatives square off against cultural pessimists and conservatives who see porous borders as a major security threat. On stem cell research, libertarians battle conservatives who have serious moral and religious doubts about the practice -- and even some staunch opponents of abortion break with the right-to-life movement on the issue.

On spending . . . well, on spending, incoherence and big deficits are the order of the day. Writing in National Review in May, conservatives Kate O'Beirne and Rich Lowry had one word to describe the Republican Congress's approach to the matter: "Incontinence."

In that important essay, O'Beirne and Lowry argued that the relevant question for conservatives may not be "Can this Congress be saved?" but "Is it worth saving?"

Political movements lose power when they lose their self-confidence and sense of mission. Liberalism went into a long decline after 1968 when liberals clawed at each other more than they battled conservatives -- and when they began to wonder whether their project was worth salvaging.

Between now and November, conservative leaders will dutifully try to rally the troops to stave off a Democratic victory. But their hearts won't be in the fight. The decline of conservatism leaves a vacuum in American politics. An unhappy electorate is waiting to see who will fill it.

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