If the Democratic Party’s control of the presidency and the Senate can succeed in provoking the base of the GOP to reevaluate its collective political identity, then it all may just have been worth it.
Maybe—maybe—the internecine conflict currently on display in the GOP indicates a breakdown of that political philosophy that has dominated Republican Party politics, as well as the so-called “conservative movement,” for decades.
The name of this philosophy is neoconservatism, and it isn’t a version of conservatism at all.
Like their “liberal” or “leftist” counterparts who’d rather die than identify themselves as liberal or leftist, neoconservatives almost always eschew the label “neoconservative.” Some have even gone so far as to refer to the latter as an “anti-Semitic” slur. All of this is as curious as it is preposterous when it is considered that Irving Kristol, a Jew andthe father of Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, unabashedly embraced it nearly 40 years ago.
Neoconservatism, Kristol noted, endorse, among other things, a “limited” welfare state of the FDR variety and an activist military that pursues nation-building enterprises abroad.
Neoconservatives, you see, not only haven’t any objections to Big Government; they desire it, for only a large, centralized government can fulfill the domestic and foreign policy objectives that they want served.
George W. Bush was a neoconservative president. In his second term, Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard had written a book in which he lavished praise upon Bush II for using Big Government for what Barnes described as “conservative” purposes. This, at bottom, is what “compassionate conservatism” was all about.
Traditional conservatives, i.e., real conservatives, like, say, Russell Kirk—a man, mind you, in whose absence, according to Bill Buckley, the conservative movement in America would’ve been “inconceivable”—could never so much as imagine that anyone, much less self-avowed “conservatives,” could think to speak of a “conservative purpose” of Big Government.
But a traditional conservative is about as unlike a neoconservative as he is unlike a leftist of any other type.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.