Who owns ‘conservatism’?

Jack Hunter

From The Daily Caller, By , July 12, 2012 – “We need more conservative Texans in Washington, D.C., including my friend  David Dewhurst,” Texas Governor Rick Perry said during his state’s Republican  convention. Perry’s comments were met with loud boos from the mostly  conservative audience.

Dewhurst, the lieutenant governor of Texas, is running for U.S. Senate. He is  being challenged in a run-off by former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, who  many Texans see as the more conservative candidate.

But Perry does have a point. Just a few short years ago, say in 2005 or 2006,  a fairly moderate Republican like Dewhurst could’ve successfully passed himself  off as a conservative with most Republican voters. During that time,  conservatism was not measured by one’s limited-government record or fidelity to  the Constitution, but simply by whether someone was on board with George W.  Bush’s policies. Some Republicans still consider Bush a conservative,  even though Bush was the most big-government president in our history until  President Obama.

I belong to that segment of diehard constitutionalists, libertarians and  others who’ve been anxious to get rid of these phony big-government  conservatives and replace them with bona fide limited-government advocates like  Cruz. For some of my more radically libertarian friends, even Cruz isn’t good  enough. I strongly disagree, but certainly prefer that sentiment to Republicans  trying to convince me that John Boehner is a conservative.

The left’s contention that the Republican Party has been “hijacked” by a  bunch of limited-government “extremists” is partly — and thankfully — true. A  Daily Caller story in June titled “Obama to portray Romney as a libertarian  extremist” quoted the president saying: “We [Democrats] haven’t moved that much. … What’s changed is the Republican Party.” Obama is right. The Democratic  Party’s agenda since the New Deal has been to make America as socialist as  possible. During the Bush administration, the Republican Party doubled the size  of the Department of Education through No Child Left Behind, created the largest  new entitlement program since President Lyndon Johnson with Medicare Plan D and  increased the debt by trillions of dollars. For most of the last decade, the  Republican Party was as socialist as the Democratic Party.

This is why when John McCain lost to Obama in 2008, I cheered. Not because I  wanted Obama to become president, but because I wanted the Republican Party to  get its ass kicked. The GOP desperately needed to hit the reset button. A  President McCain would have made that virtually impossible, but now it’s finally  happening.

I’ve learned something from living in Washington, D.C. for the past year:  most of the people who work in and around politics in this city are not that  ideological. Of course, there are serious conservatives, libertarians and  limited-government champions, just as there are serious progressives and  liberals. But by and large, most who seek to work within either major party are  primarily interested in becoming staunch partisans. If Obama defines the  Democratic Party, that’s what liberalism is. If Bush defines the GOP, that’s  what conservatism is. The thinking of most Beltway types really doesn’t go much  beyond this sophomoric level.

President Obama’s contention that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt  Romney is a “libertarian extremist” is just plain dumb. But Democrats are  recognizing a real shift happening within the GOP, as Republicans are seriously  re-examining what it means to be a conservative.

On government spending, there is more demand amongst Republicans for  substantive cuts than at any time in recent memory. On war and civil liberties,  the neoconservatives are slowly but surely losing their once-exclusive rights to  defining what a conservative foreign policy looks like. Why? Because perpetual  war costs a lot of money we simply don’t have; because true constitutionalists  can’t simply ignore the Fourth Amendment; because a policy of undeclared wars  with no end goal, no exit strategy or no strategy at all is glaringly stupid.  Cruz wants Pentagon cuts, to get out of Afghanistan and to abolish the TSA.  Perry’s “friend” Dewhurst does not.

Senator Marco Rubio, who The New York Times’ Ross Douthat calls “the great  neoconservative hope,” has noticed this ideological shift in the Republican  Party. As Rubio explained in a speech at the Brookings Institution in April: “When I arrived in the Senate, I found that the sides and debate had shifted,  with liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans working together to advocate  a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan and staying out of Libya. … Today in the  Senate on foreign policy, the further you move to the right, the likelier you  are to wind up on the left.”

Bush’s domestic policies were certainly on the left, yet were called “conservative” by many in the Republican Party at the time. Today, few  conservatives would call Bush’s domestic policies conservative. This  reassessment of what a conservative domestic policy should be — including  examining what is truly right or left — also translates to foreign policy, where  Rubio and a handful of neocon diehards are determined to keep Republican foreign  policy the same as it was under Bush.

The establishment types who actually run the party don’t really care. Their  idea of “conservatism” is simply whatever the last Republican brand was. They’re  always playing catch-up. If being like Bush means they can win the next  election, they’re all for it. If being like Ted Cruz and the tea party, or being  more libertarian, means Republicans win, they’re all for that too.

The worst thing about the Republican establishment is that they stand for  nothing. The best thing about the Republican establishment is that they stand  for nothing.

The ideological factions battling within the GOP right now are the  neoconservative old guard and a new, rising generation of constitutional  conservatives exemplified by Cruz. This battle will undoubtedly continue. But  for the first time in a long time, it looks like old-fashioned,  limited-government conservatism could actually win.

Jack Hunter (also known by his radio moniker the “Southern Avenger”) is a  frequent guest on Fox Business, Michael Savage’s nationally syndicated radio  program “The Savage Nation” and a frequent guest host on The Mike Church Show on  Sirius XM. Hunter is the co-author of “The Tea Party Goes to Washington” by Sen.  Rand Paul, assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his book “Now or Never: How to Save  America from Economic Collapse” and writes the Paulitical Ticker blog for the  Ron Paul 2012 Campaign.

2 responses

  1. Hope you are right, I am not sure the Republican Party even knows what you just said.

  2. Senator_Blutarsky

    “The worst thing about the Republican establishment is that they stand for nothing.”

    He is certainly correct in that statement, and several more.

    The pattycake Bob Doles, and Mccains of the GOP offered nothing but repackaged liberal Dimocrat policies, and the Bush criminal years were extreme Dimocrat – both, Bush the Elder & Bush the Lesser.

    There is no opposition party within a ONE party globalist system.

%d bloggers like this: