Saturday, August 05, 2006

Attention, please:

From the WaPo comes this question:

Is conservatism finished?

Conservatism was always a delicate balancing act between small-government economic libertarians and social traditionalists who revered family, faith and old values. The two wings were often held together by a common enemy, modern liberalism certainly, but even more so by communism until the early 1990s, and now by what some conservatives call "Islamofascism."

President Bush, his defenders say, has pioneered a new philosophical approach, sometimes known as "big-government conservatism." The most articulate defender of this position, the journalist Fred Barnes, argues that Bush's view is "Hamiltonian" as in Alexander, Thomas Jefferson's rival in the early republic. Bush's strategy, Barnes says, "is to use government as a means to achieve conservative ends."

Kudos to Barnes for trying bravely to make sense of what to so many others -- including some in conservative ranks -- seems an incoherent enterprise. But I would argue that this is the week in which conservatism, Hamiltonian or not, reached the point of collapse...

(read on)

But don't break out the champagne yet, Bubbles. Paleocondude, I think, is not entirely wrong when he says this:

The decline of conservatism leaves a vacuum in American politics. An unhappy electorate is waiting to see who will fill it.

What he means, of course, is that the decline of liberalism and old-school leftieism isn't even worth mentioning; the Old American Left is an ex-parrot.

Wanna prove him wrong? Or at least put something in the vacuum (for there is a vacuum, make no mistake; and has been for quite a while) more to your liking?

Best get cracking.

Nature abhors a vacuum.

And the old "pendulum" may not be as reliable as you think.


FoolishOwl said...

I'm trying to rebuild the left. Honest.

Seriously, what's intriguing to me about current US politics is that the ruling class, as represented by the two major political parties, is increasingly vulnerable -- except that there's no organized opposition to them.

Something on the order of a revived anti-globalization movement or anti-war movement, connecting to a sustained movement for immigrant rights, could be a good foundation for a real reforging of the Left in the US.

Alex said...

To be honest, I'm sort of hoping you guys see the rise of a few, smaller political parties - rather than having "big bucks, social conservatism" and "big bucks, (relative) social liberalism", the vacuum is filled by many groups that more adequately represent individuals' politics.

Of course, I should speak...

Alon Levy said...

Alex, I don't think such a thing is feasible without major political changes; by "major political changes," I mean "at least one longwinded Constitutional amendment." At a minimum, the US needs a proportionally-representative House. Preferably it should also have a Senate representing districts of equal population, possibly crossing state lines; Approval or Condorcet vote in every single-winner election; and some method for federal initiative, referendum, and recall.

Foolish Owl, what do you mean exactly by "I'm trying to rebuild the left"? Do you mean it in the activist sense, for example, "I work for the NAACP and I'm trying to get it to form a united front with NOW, the ACLU, PFAW, the HRC, and the major unions"? Or is it more in the intellectual sense, for example, "I'm trying to figure out which lessons to learn from the leftist movements of the 1960s and the success of conservatism in order to be able to offer a blueprint for rebuilding the left"?

I'm asking because these are two very different things, and because I can talk to you and offer some ideas about the latter, but not about the former.

FoolishOwl said...

Alon, I mean I'm part of a group of revolutionary socialists that is trying to build a Leninist party. But such a party can't be built in isolation from the growth of a broader active left.