REPUBLICANS VS. CONSERVATIVES

It’s been one of the themes of this blog that the Republican party has ceased to be, in most respects, a conservative party. For this, I have been accused of moving left, being hostile to faith, or simply fueled by hatred of the president. I beg to differ. Jeffrey Hart’s latest contribution to the debate is an excellent one. This paragraph nails it:

Conservatives assume that the Republican Party is by and large conservative. But this party has stood for many and various things in its history. The most recent change occurred in 1964, when its center of gravity shifted to the South and the Sunbelt, now the solid base of “Republicanism.” The consequences of that profound shift are evident, especially with respect to prudence, education, intellect and high culture. It is an example of Machiavelli’s observation that institutions can retain the same outward name and aspect while transforming their substance entirely.

The alliance between conservatism, as it was once understood, and the historically Democratic American South is, in my view, a brilliant maneuver for gaining political power, but something that has mortally wounded the tradition of limited government, individual rights, balanced budgets, political prudence and religious moderation that were once hallmarks of conservatism. But I should get back to writing my book, which does its best to make a somewhat similar case for the Republican party’s replacement of conservative constitutional balance with a fundamentalist, financially leveraged, unchecked and forever expanding executive power. Hart’s rather beautiful summary of conservatism,

“a philosophy always open to experience and judging by experience within given conditions–the experience pleasurable or, more often, painful, but utopia always a distant and destructive mirage,”

is as eloquent a damning of the current Republican hegemony as any I know of.

– posted by Andrew

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