David Brooks’ New York Times column today, “The Conservative Revival,” looks at David Cameron’s squishy Toryism as an example for Americans — particularly those who think George W. Bush didn’t go far enough in compassioning the living daylights out of conservatism.
Brooks’ excitement seems to be about an idea that first surfaced 12 years ago, back in the ’90s:
David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader, makes it clear that his primary focus is sociological. Last year he declared: “The great challenge of the 1970s and 1980s was economic revival. The great challenge in this decade and the next is social revival.” In another speech, he argued: “We used to stand for the individual. We still do. But individual freedoms count for little if society is disintegrating. Now we stand for the family, for the neighborhood – in a word, for society.”
This has led to a lot of talk about community, relationships, civic engagement and social responsibility. . . . These conservatives are not trying to improve the souls of citizens. They’re trying to use government to foster dense social bonds.
And here’s the original notion, advanced more succinctly by a recent Democratic candidate for president:
For Bill and me, there has been no experience more challenging, more rewarding, and more humbling than raising our daughter.
And we have learned that to raise a happy, healthy and hopeful child, it takes a family, it takes teachers, it takes clergy, it takes business people, it takes community leaders, it takes those who protect our health and safety, it takes all of us.
Yes, it takes a village.
Finally, here’s how one prominent conservative greeted the idea back then:
If a name must be put to these stupid politics, we can consult the Columbia Encyclopedia under the heading of that enormous stupidity, fascism: “totalitarian philosophy that glorifies state and nation and assigns to the state control over every aspect of national life.” True, the fascism in It Takes a Village is of a namby-pamby, eat-your-vegetables kind that doesn’t so much glorify the state and nation as pester the dickens out of them. . . . And there will be no uniforms other than comfortable, durable clothes on girls. And no concentration camps either — just lots and lots of day care.