A cheeky and insightful political comment from Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post on the impact of the election in the United States last week on Laissez-Faire politics of the right. Which of course never really were the politics of the post Reagan Republicans. They have not been real laissez-faire conservatives since Goldwater ran for President.
Besides, when Americans think of isms, they think -- at least they think first -- of how liberals and conservatives stand on social issues. A liberal backs abortion rights and gun regulations; a conservative wants to ban abortions and legalize all guns. By that measure, what has defined conservatism in the popular mind over the past couple of years has been its willingness to enlist government to block stem cell research, stop the teaching of evolution and supersede the duties of Terri Schiavo's husband.
This may be a conservatism that makes libertarians cringe, but it is the conservatism that dominates the Republican Party we have. Republicans generally and conservatives particularly have profited mightily from the rise and politicization of fundamentalism over the past few decades. The decimation of Republican moderates from the Northeast and Midwest in last week's elections came at the hands of centrist and independent voters who'd had it with the Southernized religious conservatism of the Republicans' base -- and with its moderate Republican enablers.
Finally, conservatives argue that the newly elected Democrats are really conservatives, too -- proof that the ideology is in no need of a tuneup. It's true that some of the Democrats take conservative positions on guns and abortion. But it's also true that virtually all the new Democrats look askance at free trade, want to raise the minimum wage and back a bigger role for government in making health care more affordable.
At a time when corporations abandon their employee benefits, globalization depresses wages, and individuals are compelled to shoulder more and more risk, the last thing Americans need is a government that tells them -- as it told their countrymen in New Orleans last year -- they're on their own.
That's why Republicans just ran a campaign devoid of new ideas. In a laissez-faire world that already induces anxiety and that becomes more laissez-faire with each passing day, who needs a laissez-faire party? Conservative, heal thyself.
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