On Reports of Conservatism’s Death
Don’t count Jay Nordlinger among those who believe American conservatism is in crisis. He unnecessarily elides conservatism and Republicanism, but his point is well taken:
Consider the 2008 presidential election. It was almost a perfect storm for Republicans. John McCain was a very, very poor candidate. He could barely make a case for himself. Now, I voted for him with gusto, and wish he had been elected. I’d like to go back to that same polling place and vote for him again. I wish he were in the Oval Office right now. But he had a very hard time making a case for himself, particularly in the three presidential debates.
His running mate, Sarah Palin, was perfectly and disgustingly vilified. The Left, broadly defined, has a lot to answer for in this regard.
McCain-Palin had 100 percent negative media coverage (or 99.9—depends on how precise you wish to be). Barack Obama had 100 percent positive coverage. The rooting was open and appalling.
And he was a very, very good candidate—a good campaigner, a good speaker, a good debater, a good pol.
Plus, the incumbent Republican president had historically low approval ratings. And the nation was weary of a fairly long and difficult war. And, in September, the financial system collapsed.
AND AND AND: McCain-Palin got 46 percent of the vote. Think of that.
As I’ve said before, I believe that, culturally, conservatism has been on a gradual incline over the past couple of decades, but that President Bush, in the aftermath of September 11, cashed in too rapidly on its political gains. And now, as Nordlinger puts it: “The patient may not be at death’s door; he may be simply resting.”
The movement must take stock of itself. It must shuffle out some old baggage and usher in some new faces. The country, the party, the movement — they’ve all taken some major hits this decade. Various cultural illnesses have graduated to more critical organs. Some philosophical principles have been dirtied by their poor exercise (as with the free market). Others are asserting their essential truth behind the ostensible successes of the other side (consider the demeanor and structure of the first family). In any process of growth, however, there are periods of apparent, but superficial, stagnation.
Western Conservatism must refortify, though, and quickly, because in the very near future, it’s going to have to dispel the hopelessness that creeping socialism will engender and arrest Islamic militantism in its tracks.