Our political Quote of the Day comes from conservative and Weekly Standard maven Bill Kristol who argues its time for a renewed conservative movement — and it may take a new generation to do so. The key quote comes on where conservatism is today:
And the conservative movement?—?a bulwark of American strength for the last several decades?—?is in deep disarray. Reading about some conservative organizations and Republican campaigns these days, one is reminded of Eric Hoffer’s remark, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” It may be that major parts of American conservatism have become such a racket that a kind of refounding of the movement as a cause is necessary. A reinvigoration of the Republican party also seems desirable, based on a new generation of leaders, perhaps coming?—?as did Ike and Reagan?—?from outside the normal channels.
The good news is that these new leaders do not have to create something de novo. They have an American tradition to appeal to. That tradition would suggest a “light footprint” isn’t the best America can do. It would suggest that it’s not really America’s destiny to tiptoe through the world, hoping not to do too much to disturb dictators and jihadists.
All this talk of footprints would have rung a bell with earlier generations of Americans.
Contemporary liberalism is committed to leading from behind, with a light footprint. Isn’t it the historic task of American conservatism to shape an America that will lead again from the front, with a stride worthy of a great nation? Isn’t it the task of conservatism to restore American leadership so that friends of freedom around the world, Seeing, shall take heart again, in an America that seeks to leave behind us / Footprints on the sand of time?
Of course, Kristol is advocating a more aggressive foreign policy, most likely back in the good, old days (to neocons) when the U.S. got into the Iraq war under pretenses that were…ahem…at varience with the facts.
But GOPers need to think about the huge investment in keeping it angry and throwing CostCo sized portions of redmeat to the hungry choir that those who market their books, speeches, talk show hosts, or lucrative web-based partisan sites — where readers know they’ll agree with posts before they even click on the URL –have. And of precisely where all of this has taken their party and the problems it now poses in terms of future party growth.
If conservatives and GOPers are serious, they’ll try to recruit more members into their existing choir. And that means some of those who have a vested interest in maintaining anger and portraying consensus and compromise as signs of weakness or ideological treason could take a hit and will still be trying to take the party in a different direction than those who want to regain power. And it’s unlikely they will do so willingly.
This is part of the battle the GOP will have to undergo to broaden its appeal. It can’t sit around like some do saying the party lost because white voters didn’t turn out enough in force.
And, YES: conservatives can make some changes as Kristol suggests, try to appeal to more Americans and still advocate a more neocon foreign policy.
Will it work? Maybe. Maybe not. But it is likely to be more effective.
FOOTNOTE: Closing down the government, refusing to raise the debt ceiling will continue to play into the perception among the MANY non-members of the today’s conservative Republican choir that modern day conservative is highly influenced not just by the Tea Party by polarizing talk radio hosts who thrive on political confrontation and whip up their audiences so they feel any kind of cooperation is ideological treason.
NOTE: An earlier version of this did NOT have the edits due to a system hiccup. This is the version that should have gone up.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.