Weekend Politics

A few good links on conservatism that got my mind working this week:

  • Sam Tanenhaus’s “Conservatism is Dead” in The New Republic is the read of the week. Tanenhaus surveys the intellectual history of the movement and argues that conservatism has calcified into a rigid ideology (tax cuts no matter what state the economy is in, for instance) and a constant state of cultural outrage, when it should be more of a “conservatism of doubt,” typified by Whittaker Chambers and Russell Kirk, that serves as a corrective to liberal over-reach. I wonder how a more flexible conservatism is going to be compelling enough to win elections. Responses from John O’Sullivan, Russell Fox, Yuval Levin, Damon Linker, Conor Friedersdorf, David Frum, and Mr. Flexible Conservatism himself, Andrew Sullivan.

  • Speaking of Yuval Levin, he has a good essay in Commentary on the meaning of Sarah Palin and the class divisions her candidacy revealed. He’s definitely more positive about Palin than I am. I’ve been meaning to write about this since the campaign ended. I think there are some real class divisions in the GOP between the “populist” conservatives and the libertarian conservatives, and I tend to think that the cultural right-wing populism of Sarah Palin (and similarly, Joe the “Plumber”) is not what the GOP needs to lead them back to the majority. But I could be wrong.

  • On the other side of the coin, we have David Frum’s new New Majority venture. Launched on inauguration day, New Majority seems aimed at creating a conservatism that can win back college educated suburbanites–the kind of people turned off by Palinite cultural populism. Right now, I’m really appreciating Geoffrey Kabaservice’s series on the GOP’s 20th-century moderate figures: Thomas Curtis, Tom Dewey, Ogen R. Reid, and Henry Stimson.

  • Here, Patrick Deneen wonders if George W. Bush so discredited the label “conservative” that another name is needed. I think that’s kind of unfair, considering Bush wasn’t all that conservative on some important matters, like the size of government.


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