Jonah Goldberg

If the Democrats won more elections by moving to the middle, it would be bad news for the Republican Party, to be sure. But it would be good news for America - if you believe, as I do, that America would be better off moving in a more conservative direction. Keep in mind that when the Democrats move to the left, the Republicans move leftward to the middle - that is, to the left. So Republicans who cheer the leftward tilt of the Democrats shouldn't be surprised when the entire political center of gravity moves to the left as well.

Remember when that court declared the "under God" portion of the pledge of allegiance unconstitutional? Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle immediately denounced the decision. I'm sure they were sincere. But even if they weren't, it was smart politics because no politician wants to run against the pledge of allegiance. Now, someone who puts the interests of the Republican Party ahead of everything else would have been disappointed by the Democrats' maneuver. But no conservative in his right mind would have been upset about it, because the whole point of conservatism is to conserve those customs, institutions and values we consider essential for a healthy society.

Of course, during an election year the differences between conservatives and Republicans - as well as those between liberals and Democrats - become especially blurred. That's because elections force everyone to choose sides, to make the achievable good preferable to the unattainable perfect. Antiwar liberals held their noses and voted for Kerry even though he promised to fight harder than Bush. Small government conservatives contained their disgust for Bush's overspending.

But now the election is over, and I think you can expect to see a lot more daylight between conservatives and Bush. By all accounts, Bush and Karl Rove want to seal the Republican Party as the majority for a generation. I'm all for it, but that doesn't mean I'll like everything the White House does to achieve this. The No Child Left Behind Act was a deliberate attempt to steal education from Democrats as an issue. It was somewhat successful, but that doesn't mean conservatives should suddenly cheer federal meddling in local education. The expansion of Medicare to cover prescription drugs was a fiscal train wreck.

The White House has many excellent ideas - tax reform, overhauling Social Security, etc. - that conservatives should get behind. But if the goal is to make the Republican Party the majority party by making it the a more "reasonable" big government party, I suspect you won't find it so easy to confuse conservatives and Republicans in the near future.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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