Friday, February 8, 2008

Conservatives or Authoritarians?

A scathing critique of the direction many Conservatives have taken.

We need a change in nomenclature. Those who continue to support the administration’s radical theory of executive power are properly described as authoritarians. Once upon a time they may have been conservative but I think it’s safe to say that circa February 2008 conservatism has been orphaned by its ostensible champions. As a philosophy for governance it has no meaningful support on the national stage and hasn’t for years. I won’t dwell on long-forgotten odes to small government and fiscal responsibility, the counseling of prudence and pragmatism in foreign affairs, or reverence for tradition and precedent in conducting the nation’s business. All of it deserves more attention and the erstwhile conservatives served us all very poorly by abandoning it, but what bothers me most is their enthusiastic embrace of militarism, torture, fearmongering and a near-voyeuristic obsession with surveillance. They are at best former conservatives, as are those who maintain a discreet silence while all this happens. Some like Andrew Sullivan have explicitly distanced themselves from it and identified as Burkean conservatives (a lonely tribe at the moment, but possibly the only long-term alternative to extinction for the Republican party). The rest don’t deserve the legitimacy “conservative” implies.

As I've written before, I think the Republicans are really adrift right now. They are going to need a strong leader to bring them back to the core principles their party was founded on. Who knows when that person will come along, though, and how far the party will sink before he or she does.

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