The Corner

Not Conservatism, Less Liberalism

No wonder John McCain’s policies are incoherent. He digests this stuff while also claiming to be a Reaganite. The problem is, many people in his own party aren’t buying it, let alone conservatives. Many of the problems Brooks sites to promote his view were made worse by big government. Can anyone seriously point to any major sector of our economy where the government hasn’t insinuated itself in a significant way? Talking about Disraeli and TR as if 100 years and more of government intervention hasn’t transpired — such as the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Square Deal, the Great Society — is pundit malpractice.

For example, in the health care field, the federal government directly subsidizes about 30% of health insurance. But that’s only the beginning. It influences and in many respects controls pricing, distribution, approvals, and standards applicable to the entire industry. The same can be said, to one degree or another, respecting the other issues Brooks raises. In my view, this is the problem with ceding the entire limited government argument. Brooks does not make the case for conservatism. He makes the case for less liberalism, whatever that means (and he has no idea what it means, and never attempts to draw a coherent philosophical delineation between more liberalism and less liberalism – having placed himself somewhere in between). He learns nothing from the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae debacles. He learns nothing from the $53 trillion in off-budget obligations from massive entitlement programs. He learns nothing from the Fed’s mishandling of money, which is driving down the value of the dollar. He learns nothing from the current situation, in which Congress has driven up the price of fuel and food through various environmental schemes and the ethanol misadventure. And I could go on and on. The time to argue against big government, to argue for not the middle class but all classes, is now. By listening to Brooks et al, McCain is missing a huge political opportunity to appeal to segments of the voting population whom the big-government liberals have forsaken or, worse, vilify — including the Reagan Democrats who work in the smoke stack industries and who suffer under the effects of big-government regulations and the environmentalists. I could add more, but this isn’t the right place or time, given my own schedule.

As an aside, Brooks was among those who urged conservatives to abandon the era of Reagan. Yet he incessantly draws on the era of TR. TR was never considered a conservative. He was a populist verging on progressive. I am troubled by Brooks’s repeated efforts to rewrite history through the sloppy use of semantics in order to fit his own political manifesto (such as it is). IMHO, McCain would do well to find other advisors.

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