Derb, I read that glum statistic on how the wage disparity between government bureaucrats and private-sector suckers widened during the Bush years just before this George Jonas column. It deals mainly with current Canadian politics but its lesson is of broader application:
Whenever the centre-right wins an election, the centre-left allows that its opponents have the office, but denies they have the mandate. They can govern for a term, yes, but only by consensus, not according to their own lights… The amazing thing isn’t that the centre-left makes this declaration — why shouldn’t it? — but that the centre-right often believes it, or acts as if it did. Majority or minority, Tories tend to govern apologetically, as if they were caretaker governments, probationary constables, relief politicians holding the fort until the real politicians catch their breath and return for the next spell of legitimate centre-left governance.
Some centre-right leaders in the United Kingdom and the United States haven’t been as vulnerable to the syndrome of pussyfoot-conservatism as Canada’s centre-right leaders. But even the least wobbly, Margaret Thatcher, say, and Ronald Reagan, weren’t entirely impervious to it. With all their self-confidence and charisma, Thatcher and Reagan never radiated that cocksure, hubristic aura of self-righteous intellectual and moral conceit that’s the hallmark of centre-left leaders from Pierre Elliott Trudeau to Barack Obama.
Simply put, the centre-left feels entitled to govern; the centre-right doesn’t. It was instructive, and scary, to watch America’s President open a new chapter of regulatory statism in his Wall Street ululation this week. Obama was cooking, laying down the law with entitlement oozing from every pore, in a dazzling, born-to-govern performance.
Pussyfoot-conservatism is a Tory malady, much as gout was a royal disease.
There’s a lot of it about.