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Old 09-03-2005, 08:20 PM   #1
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The Anti-Reagan

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In 1960, a Republican senator named Barry Goldwater published a little book called The Conscience of a Conservative. The first printing of 10,000 copies led to a second of the same size, then a third of 50,000, until ultimately it sold more than 3 million copies. Goldwater's presidential candidacy crashed in 1964, but his ideas did not: For decades, Goldwater's hostility to Big Government ruled the American Right. Until, approximately, now.

Rick Santorum, a second-term Republican senator from Pennsylvania, has written a new book called It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good. The book is worth taking seriously for several reasons, not least of which is that it is a serious book. The writing and thinking are consistently competent, often better than that. The lapses into right-wing talk-radioese ("liberals practically despise the common man") are rare. Santorum wrestles intelligently, often impressively, with the biggest of big ideas: freedom, virtue, civil society, the Founders' intentions. Although he is a Catholic who is often characterized as a religious conservative, he has written a book whose ambitions are secular. As its subtitle promises, it is about conservatism, not Christianity.

Above all, it is worth noticing because, like Goldwater's Conscience, it lays down a marker. As Goldwater repudiated Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, so Santorum repudiates Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. It's now official: Philosophically, the conservative movement has split. Post-Santorum, tax-cutting and court-bashing can hold the Republican coalition together for only so much longer.

As a policy book, It Takes a Family is temperate. It serves up a healthy reminder that society needs not just good government but strong civil and social institutions, and that the traditional family serves all kinds of essential social functions. Government policies, therefore, should respect and support family and civil society instead of undermining or supplanting them. Parents should make quality time at home a high priority. Popular culture should comport itself with some sense of responsibility and taste
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Where Goldwater denounced collectivism as the enemy of the individual, Santorum denounces individualism as the enemy of family. On page 426, Santorum says this: "In the conservative vision, people are first connected to and part of families: The family, not the individual, is the fundamental unit of society." Those words are not merely uncomfortable with the individual-rights tradition of modern conservatism. They are incompatible with it.

Santorum seems to sense as much. In an interview with National Public Radio last month, he acknowledged his quarrel with "what I refer to as more of a libertarianish Right" and "this whole idea of personal autonomy." In his book he comments, seemingly with a shrug, "Some will reject what I have to say as a kind of 'Big Government' conservatism."

They sure will. A list of the government interventions that Santorum endorses includes national service, promotion of prison ministries, "individual development accounts," publicly financed trust funds for children, community-investment incentives, strengthened obscenity enforcement, covenant marriage, assorted tax breaks, economic literacy programs in "every school in America" (his italics), and more. Lots more.
link

A good read about the divergence that has been well observed with conservatism on a national level in the US. The bloc of the "religious right" seem to be a driving force in this - social conservatives who advocate government control and incentive to achieve political ends upon society. Family first movements will inevitably come into conflict with the fiscal conservatives and libertarians because they remove the only glue holding them together ~ the nature of government and its role in society. Compassionate conservatism is the stop gap but it is itself unable to appease both camps, the split will emerge one day.

From an outsiders perspective it looks interesting; the political traditions of the US right differ from those abroad; the continuing religious component in your political scene for whatever historical or social reasons is a consistent source of bother.
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Old 09-03-2005, 09:47 PM   #2
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The Christian Taliban is trying to seize power. It's that simple.

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Old 09-03-2005, 09:53 PM   #3
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If Barry Goldwater was alive today to meet Rick Santorum, Goldwater would punch him in the face.
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Old 09-03-2005, 09:56 PM   #4
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Another thing I think is happening is that we're changing from the rather classical notion of "liberal" versus "conservative" into "secular" versus "theocratic."

I'm reminded of the last major party upheaval during the Reconstruction era, where Northern liberals and conservatives literally switched places in 1870. The Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln was liberal, while the Democratic Party was conservative. The best hope we can probably have against theocracy, perhaps, is for Republican secularists to bolt the party and merge with the Democratic Party. Then the agenda can be remolded, and we can just cut the crap completely and make the political fighting in this country blatantly obvious. It's long been about "secular" versus "theocratic" for a while now.

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Old 09-03-2005, 10:02 PM   #5
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On the other hand, a lot depends on who is the Republican nominee for president in 2008. If we have a moderate "secularist" nominee like McCain or Giuliani, the Christian Taliban element to the GOP might be marginalized and rendered somewhat impotent. If Frist push polls his way to the top, though, perhaps my previous post is the solution to stopping these dangerous fanatics.

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Old 09-03-2005, 10:03 PM   #6
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What your secular vs. theocratic is (I suspect) one of values and the role of government in enforcing those values. I do not see it so much as a religion in government question as much as it is one of social control by government. I do not think that socialists and libertarians would ally on the basis that they reject notions of religion in government, although the more conservative classical liberals are much more like minded.
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Old 09-03-2005, 10:08 PM   #7
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Libertarians and socialists will never mesh in the existing two-party system anyway. They already have their respective third parties (Libertarian and Green Parties).

In terms of the Democratic Party, they're already a mushy pile of clay waiting to be molded. I've advocated for a while now that they need to develop a backbone like 1930s Democrats, and seeing the pundits say that Giuliani would get the 2008 nomination easily if it were held today confirms my notions.

And, frankly, maybe this hypothetically molded Democratic Party is the best vehicle for change anyway. There's a large push for reduced spending (fiscal conservatism), but people also want services (social liberalism). That's already pretty much the framework of what the existing Democratic Party wants to be, but just can't get out of the garage. They need jumper cables one way or another.

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Old 09-04-2005, 06:30 AM   #8
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The fiscal conservatives have the money.
The Christians have the numbers (votes).

They need each other for the immediate future for the party to keep rolling.
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Old 09-04-2005, 08:01 AM   #9
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in comparison to today's theocratic republicans, Goldwater looks like Lincoln.
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Old 09-04-2005, 06:45 PM   #10
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Originally posted by Irvine511
in comparison to today's theocratic republicans, Goldwater looks like Lincoln.
Yep. And Richard Nixon looks like a peacenik leftie.
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