Monday, March 20, 2006

With America entering its third year in an increasingly unstable Iraq at a cost of about $150 million a day, and an administration that breaks the law, disregards civil liberties and human rights at its whim, the question Democrats, Independents and Undecideds are asking these days is: could it get any worse? Well, my friends, consider this: Frist-Romney ’08. The answer is, obviously, yes. But Conservatives should be asking themselves the same. It is their legacy that’s at stake. It’s their party that’s being stolen from them. When the pendulum swings—and it will—what will be left of their gutted Grand Old Party? As the façade of Republican conservatism crumbles, should it surprise anyone that most self-professed conservatives know little or nothing of Edmund Burke and David Hume, never mind Joseph de Maistre and F.A. Hayek? Or that they’re blissfully unaware that, even with their “team” winning, conservatism is in crisis?

We all know there are those on either side of the spectrum who look at political parties as something akin to baseball teams. The rivalry between Republicans and Democrats, like that between the Sox and the Yankees, has little to do with who’s on the roster. It’s the jersey that matters. Just wearing the “wrong” one is enough to condemn you to eternal perdition, according to the guy in the “right” one. But for Republicans who want their party to stand for something, the question of whether Mr. Bush is a conservative has been coming up a lot lately. It is what might be described as an internal squabble that has spilled out into the open because many stalwarts of the conservative movement have been asking it, among them economist Bruce Bartlett, columnist George Will, and the godfather of modern conservatism himself, William F. Buckley, Jr.

Conservatives seem to agree that the war in Iraq, and a policy that assures future such military adventures abroad, is damaging if not flat-out hostile to conservative values. They quote no less an authority than James Madison, father of the Constitution, on the subject: “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.” Madison also warned of the consolidation of power in the executive that we’re seeing under Bush.

Could it get worse? So long as Democrats remain bankrupt of ideals or the ability to inspire Americans to live up to them, yes. So long as Republican rah-rah team-loyalty trumps “traditional values” like the balance of powers, government ethics, fiscal restraint, and the conservative trinity of peace, property and commerce, yes. One thing’s for sure: the parties are changing, one of them radically. If you’re wearing a red jersey, it’s time you stepped up to the bat and took your team back.

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