THE SEARCH FOR THERAPEUTIC CONSERVATISM
Jay B Gaskill
This article is Copyright © 2012 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law. Forwards, links and quoted excerpts (with attribution) are always welcome and encouraged. For all other permissions and comments, please contact the author via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the election of 2008 we elected a Therapist in Chief. It felt good for a while. It was like hiring a New Age shrink for a loved one in distress.
[I first floated this notion in a YouTube peroration just before Mr. Obama’s election. It’s still there at – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UprPIBzc_DM .]
Unfortunately the patient really needed a good oncologist. The first hint that we had engaged the wrong physician came almost immediately when President Obama prescribed shock therapy for the moribund, post-bubble economy. The inapt medical metaphor was revealing. The patient did not recover from the stimulus because shock treatment does not cure cancer.
Ronald Reagan succeeded because he espoused conservatism 2.0. And he did so with charm, clarity and persistence. His success was possible because the old fashioned liberalism of JFK and Scoop Jackson (I am still a liberal in that sense) had degraded into liberalism 2.0, a version that retained the “’make the world a better place” ideal, but was drugged down, saturated with the New Age hippy culture, drained of the love of country, family and the value of hard work. Millions of patriotic working Americans rejected liberalism 2.0 in favor of conservatism 2.0. Reagan conservatism succeeded because it captured the key elements of old fashioned liberalism.
Flash forward to today – we now are living with liberalism 3.0, the jaded, politically corrupt version of liberalism 2.0 in which the New Age elements are muted, and disturbing new elements have been added, like addiction and evasion of responsibility (fiscal irresponsibility coupled with entitlement-driven vote buying).
David Brooks has referred to this an excessive rent-seeker problem.
“Why don’t Americans trust their government? It’s not because they dislike individual programs like Medicare. It’s more likely because they think the whole system is rigged. Or to put it in the economists’ language, they believe the government has been captured by rent-seekers.
“This is the disease that corrodes government at all times and in all places. As George F Will (↓) wrote – as government grows, interest groups accumulate, seeking to capture its power and money.
David Brooks in the New York Times (Where are the Liberals?) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/10/opinion/brooks-where-are-the-liberals.html?ref=davidbrooks
“The left’s centuries-old mission is to increase social harmony by decreasing antagonisms arising from disparities of wealth — to decrease inequality by increasing government’s redistributive activities.
“Such government constantly expands under the unending, indeed intensifying, pressures to correct what it disapproves of — the distribution of wealth produced by consensual market activities. But as government presumes to dictate the correct distribution of social rewards, the maelstrom of contemporary politics demonstrates that social strife, not solidarity, is generated by government transfer payments to preferred groups.”
George Will in the Washington Post (The Redistribution Behemoth)
In my last column in this space (http://jaygaskill.com/3T.htm), I concluded with this caution, addressed to all thinking conservatives –
“At the end of the day this presidential election is going turn on an intangible trio of elements: “The Three T’s – Trauma, Trust and Turnaround. The electorate has been traumatized. The American people are willing to make a midstream course correction only for leadership they can trust, and only for a turnaround they can believe in.”
In that same piece, I asserted that there are five broad conservative themes that most American voters, most of the time actually support:
a tough-minded approach to law and order, national security and terrorism;
a high level of concern about excessive federal debt and borrowing;
a less generous approach to entitlements and social justice issues;
a more generous approach to the problems and concerns of private business enterprises; and -
-a broadband distrust of federal governmental agencies, bureaus and bureaucrats as out of touch, unelected elites with too much power and time on their hands.
The same polls consistently show that a supermajority of Americans think the country is headed in the “wrong direction”. I am persuaded by the totality of the evidence that this is because American voters do understand that we need a turnaround in each of those five areas. This is consistent with other polling in which a large plurality of Americans self-describe as “conservative” (Gallop Poll 2009, 40% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal // Rasmussen Poll 2012 42% are fiscal conservatives, 11% liberal on money issues).
A shared sense that America needs a change in direction is not a demand for a counterrevolution. Most Americans distrust radical change, partly because they have been burned enough by the political class to suspect grandiose promises, and partly because we are an innately cautious people. We are a center-right electorate that has been traumatized. We do need to change physicians; we require new treatment modalities that a government hobbled by liberalism 3.0 cannot or will not agree to.
But we are bruised, betrayed and mistrustful. Mr. Obama lost the coalition that swept him into office. [In case you have not yet read it, take a close look at the penetrating analysis by Noemie Emery, still archived at – http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/overrated_594676.html.]
A new governing coalition has yet to form.
The next move is up to the realistic, thinking conservatives. What will conservatism 3.0 look like? Who will carry the water?
Some related articles by Jay B Gaskill
The American Creative Surge http://jaygaskill.com/ACS2011.pdf
The American Creed http://jaygaskill.com/AmericanCreed2010.pdf
The American Bubble http://jaygaskill.com/AmericanBubble.htm
Living in the Ayn Rand Universe http://jaygaskill.com/InTheAynRandUniverse.htm