James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Buckley Nails It

In the past few weeks, I've been reminded of what I like about conservatism, and why I once counted myself as one. The Aug 28 American Conservative was one reminder. The October Washington Monthly, in which seven conservatives come out rooting for Democratic victory in 2006, is another (ht: Freedom Democrats.

The mistake I used to make when I was conservative is I thought what I valued in conservatism were the defining aspects of conservatism. Nevertheless, I agreed with the conservatives' rhetoric on low taxes, free markets, and strict construction of the Constitution. But Jeffrey Hart reminds me of another admirable conservative trait, the "politics of reality;" Great Presidents "responded to the world as it is, not the world as they would have it." But, as Hart writes,
The Constitution itself is a Burkean document, one that slows down decisions to allow for “deliberate sense” and checks and balances. President Bush has nearly upended that tradition, abandoning traditional realism in favor of a warped and incoherent brand of idealism.
[I]deological government deserves rejection, whatever its party affiliation. This November, the Republicans stand to face a tsunami of rejection. They’ve earned it.

I understand that without a principled or "ideological" commitment to smaller government, we'll never get it. But "reality-based" government is preferable to "dogma-based" government, no matter how admirable the dogma. if a libertarian-leaning politician doesn't not understand what he can and can't do politically, or fails while in office to provide services the government traditionally provides and the people aren't yet allowed to provide for themselves, he'll fail fantastically. And this will play right into the hands of the statists.

In that context, I understand how many Republicans tried to govern over the years, until the current Bush Administration. I think Christopher Buckley really hits the nail on the head (emphasis mine):
The Republican Party I grew up into—Dwight D. Eisenhower, William F. Buckley Jr., Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon (sigh), Ronald Reagan—stood for certain things. It did not always live up to its ideals. Au contraire, as we Republicans said in the pre-Dominique de Villepin era—often, it fell flat on its face. A self-proclaimed “conservative,” Nixon kept the Great Society entitlement beast fat and happy and brought in wage and price controls. Reagan funked Social Security reform in 1983 and raised (lesser) taxes three times. He vowed to balance the budget, and drove the deficit to historic highs by failing to rein in government spending. Someone called it “Voodoo economics.” You could Google it.

There were foreign misadventures, terrible ones: Vietnam (the ’69-’75 chapters), Beirut, Iran-Contra, the Saddam Hussein tilt. But there were compensating triumphs: Eisenhower’s refusal to bail out France in Indochina in 1954, Nixon’s China opening, the Cold War victory.

Despite the failures, one had the sense that the party at least knew in its heart of hearts that these were failures, either of principle or execution. Today one has no sense, aside from a slight lowering of the swagger-mometer, that the president or the Republican Congress is in the least bit chastened by their debacles.

That's it: the Republican leadership in the White House and Congress don't know how much they've screwed up, are doing nothing to confront political, military, and economic reality, and refuse to even quietly and moderately distance themselves from failed policies. They are not conservative, and they are not even remotely libertarian, they are just delusional. They must go.


  1. And you are expecting the democrats to be better? Why?

  2. I don't. I just want to see the GOP to go down. But I probably won't vote for Democrat scum either.