Monday, October 27, 2008

A new conservatism?

The Public Servant has a very interesting piece up on a prospective Obama administration's 1st 100 days, titled "Rounding Third." It's a good piece, and I recommend treating yourself to its entirety. It contains this central thesis about the goals of that potential government during its first 3 or so months:
The point is to change the country in a way that will command the support of a large majority of the public before the general cynicism about government takes root.
I might modify that somewhat: The point is to hold the general cynicism about government at bay long enough to pull its teeth by fundamentally reinventing government, in practice first and then in the eyes of the people. Public Servant gets all that--I just wanted to take that extra cut for my readers, here.

I agree. This will be very interesting (provided the outcome we both wish for arrives). I don't know what BHO has in mind, of course, and the rather bold call that PS and I would make might not be on his radar at all (though the circumstances beg for original, unconventional approaches). But I've been thinking a lot lately about the need for a new, robustly intellectual conservatism. The more I think about it, the more I think that that might be just what Obama represents.

Certainly, many of his policies ring bells that 20th century conservatives would label as "liberal" (and really what I think we have in the GoP today is the rump party of 20th century conservatism, with all the real conservatives sucked out of it). But his pursuit of those policies is very measured and based on sober historical and factual analysis.

This is also to say that what was once conservative policy is now obsolete, and the new conservatism of the 21st century may very well represent a much more pragmatic cross-breeding of progressive sensibility with conservative procedure. Government will be pared back, but not to the quick, not to Norquist's bathtub-ready shrimp. It will be pared back to a purpose: the commonweal, as defined by the progressive dictum to protect the weak from the strong, the power-less from the powerful, and to secure an equitable starting gate for all citizens regardless of wealth.

I recognize that that's highly ideal, of course. But what are mission statements if not ideal? I also recognize the dissonance in claiming simultaneously that we need a dramatic shift in the nature of government and that that shift will be to a new conservatisim (a clear-cut oxymoron). So sue me.

I hope to come back to this and develop it a bit. This is a first cut, but I'd be interested to hear what you all think. What is conservatism, to you? My judgment is that the GoP is an intellectual desert right now; do you agree? I also see Obama proceeding very conservatively, in the classic sense.

Let's chat.

1 comment:

Barth said...

I hope we are not just having a conversation with one another, but your point is a good one. I do not want a one party government. I live in what has become a one party state, and, though it is the one I am registered in, the state version of that party does not represent me.

I hope we are in a re-aligning period. I am not sure we are, though. We shall see int he months to come, I think and certainly by the tone of the 2010 campaign for Congress.