Sunday, February 26, 2012

Maureen Dowd and the Greatly Exaggerated Death of Conservatism

This Sunday, a friend of mine brought to my attention Maureen Dowd's latest offering in the New York Times. Had it not been for my friend's interest in my thoughts on Miss Dowd's piece, I am sure I wouldn't have read it. The column is a warmed-over, hearty liberal chestnut that has been circulated in some version or other since at least heyday of Barry Goldwater. To wit, the Republican party is represented by puritanical nuts, competing in "the Hester Pyrnne primaries", to see who can be the most extreme and who is able to put across the most out-dated ideas.

Suffice it to say that the evidence for her conclusions is barley presented and consists mostly of standard-issue mockery of Rick Santorum as a religious zealot. The column is a recycled yawn, but it does provide a useful lens through which to view the contradictions and intellectual poverty of modern liberalism.

First, let us consider the manner in which liberals like Dowd apparently perceive Republicans-conservatives. In concluding her piece, Dowd writes: "The Republicans, with their crazed Reagan fixation, are a last-gasp party, living posthumously, fighting battles on sex, race, immigration and public education long ago won by the other side. They’re trying to roll back the clock, but time is passing them by. "

As is typical of liberals, Dowd sees herself as an enlightened "progressive", while conservatives are backward bigots. However, one might ask, what battles are Republicans fighting against "sex" or "race"? I am not aware of the Romney plan to re-institute Jim Crow and perhaps I missed Gingrich's speech on the innate inferiority of blacks. As for sex, is there a war on procreation? If there is, it is obviously waged by liberals and their minions at Planned Parenthood. But, rest assured, liberals like Dowd will continue to trot out these silly conclusory statements over and over, just as they have for at least 50 years.

And exactly what is the settled consensus on immigration that we troglodytes resist? Was it not President George W. Bush and Republican presidential nominee John McCain who pushed for "comprehensive" immigration reform? There is a debate among the present GOP contenders over how to best handle illegal immigrants and the leaders of both parties have spoken in favor of a "secure border". I've heard Barack Obama tout his record as a vigorous deporter of illegals.

Most ludicrously, Dowd poses the Republicans as fighting a pointless battle on "public education." In fact, to the extent that there is a consensus on education issues, it holds that the present education system is woefully inadequate. To their great credit, conservatives have fought to break the teachers unions'  strangle-hold over the government-monopoly education complex. Conservatives have pushed for choice and competition, for charter schools, vouchers and accountability standards. Liberals like Michael Bloomberg and, yes, Barack Obama, have adopted portions of the conservative agenda and certainly used conservative language in describing their reformist policies. But perhaps Miss Dowd would have preferred that House Republicans abandoned this insane "battle" against history's march and permitted her fellow liberals to kill the Opportunity Scholarship Program in Washington, D.C., thereby sentencing scores of  minority children to failing and violent public schools.    

The point here is not merely to dispatch a Maureen Dowd column, but to make a larger statement about conservatism, liberalism and the future. In spite of Miss Dowd's self-regard, the truth is that modern liberalism has strikingly little to offer in terms of a vision of America in the 21st century. In spite of their application to themselves of the term "progressives", liberals oppose progress and reform. While liberals imagine that conservatives are waging war on "sex", they apparently cannot wrap their minds around the actual problems we face as a society or answer the conservative position on critical issues.

Consider perhaps the most obvious present example of liberalism's backwardness: We are a nation with a mounting debt crisis. Our 20th century social programs, social security, Medicare and Medicaid are consuming ever more of our national budget and cannot be sustained in their present forms. Republican-conservatives have offer reform solutions, as have various bi-partisan commissions and groups. But Obama-liberals ignore the problem at best and, at worst, deny its existence. As such, programs created in the 1930s and 1960s must maintain their original forms, no matter the vast changes in society that have occurred since their creation, period. 

Much more can, and will, be said on this subject, as I believe that the disparity in vision is the defining difference in our current the political divide. Conservatives may be tempted to dismiss the Dowd rhetoric as nonsensical, but the Dowd narrative does pose a challenge. We conservatives must frame our policies as forward-looking and reform-minded, formulated through an understanding of the lessons of history.

We ought to make clear that history didn't stop in 1968. The causes of America's problems and failings in the mid-20th century are not the same as those we face today. The political party and ideology that can squarely address our actual challenges and their causes and that can craft a message to bring the country along into this new era, with all its demands and possibilities, will be triumphant.

Conservatism has the intellectual basis to do so--now it needs the right messengers to convey its ideas and principals. If we can develop the message and the messengers, Maureen Dowd's obituary for Republican-conservatism will appear even more laughable in the future than it does today.  

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