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Posted by on May 9, 2008 in At TMV | 6 comments

The future of the GOP as small government Democrats

In The Conservative Revival David Brooks explores the lessons the GOP could learn from their conservative colleagues in the UK.

“The British conservative renovation begins with this insight: The central political debate of the 20th century was over the role of government. The right stood for individual freedom while the left stood for extending the role of the state. But the central debate of the 21st century is over quality of life. In this new debate, it is necessary but insufficient to talk about individual freedom. Political leaders have to also talk about, as one Tory politician put it, “the whole way we live our lives.”

That means, first, moving beyond the Thatcherite tendency to put economics first. As Oliver Letwin, one of the leading Tory strategists put it: “Politics, once econo-centric, must now become socio-centric.” David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader, makes it clear that his primary focus is sociological. Last year he declared: “The great challenge of the 1970s and 1980s was economic revival. The great challenge in this decade and the next is social revival.” In another speech, he argued: “We used to stand for the individual. We still do. But individual freedoms count for little if society is disintegrating. Now we stand for the family, for the neighborhood — in a word, for society.”

This could be as significant as the replacement of communism with capitalism and their realization that “If you can’t beat ’em join ’em”. What this means to me is that one model of the conservative movement may be evolving from “survival of the fittest” to accepting the aims of liberalism and focusing on the wellbeing of the unfortunate. Party distinctions may become more about tactics: big government solutions or small government solutions rather than about the class war of haves and have nots.

This would be stunningly important political progress to add to abolition of slavery, suffrage, the GI bill, Marshall Plan, Social Security, Medicare…

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