Friday, November 16, 2012

"What Has Movement Conservatism Accomplished in the Last 15 Years?"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

That's the question Conor Friedersdorf asked at The Atlantic yesterday.

Short answer: not much, if anything.

Longer answer:

Perhaps we'll see future triumphs from the conservative movement despite its present troubles. But have we seen any evidence of success since 1997 or so? George W. Bush created a new bureaucracy, expanded the federal role in education, approved a massive new entitlement, exploded the deficit, abandoned any pretense of a "humble foreign policy" that eschewed nation building, and left office having approved a massive government bailout of the financial sector. Then President Obama took office, presided over more bailouts and growing deficits, passed a health care reform bill that conservatives hate, and got reelected. Over this same period, the country has gotten more socially liberal. Gays can serve openly in the military and marry.

A majority now supports legalizing marijuana.

Circa 1997, if you'd told the average conservative that all those things would happen in the next 15 years, would they have declared the conservative movement finished? I suspect as much.

Basically, all conservatism has accomplished is profitable self-promotion:

But what has Fox News accomplished? What has the Tea Party accomplished? What has any movement institution accomplished in the last 15 years? Enough that the movement isn't a failure? Is a successful entertainment channel and a short-lived protest movement enough for conservatives? Is winning the 2010 midterms enough if it doesn't ultimately advance the agenda? If so, conservatives have chosen the right movement leaders. Think tank, talk radio and magazine pundits will keep getting paid and Fox profits will keep rolling in as Obama governs.

For them, the conservative movement is an end in itself.  

So let me repeat the question: What has conservatism accomplished beyond this self-satisfied money-making effort?

My answer? They've turned the Republican Party into an increasingly extremist party of the far right -- increasingly on the ideological fringe, increasingly detached from reality, and from America generally, and increasingly unelectable.

And that's an accomplishment that deserves a cheer or two from those of us who wish the Republican Party anything but well.

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  • Isn't the point of movement conservatism simply to keep anybody else from accomplishing anything?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:44 PM  

  • That's pretty much what it's become. And when you achieve that, you just reinforce the status quo.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 9:50 PM  

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