It is not yet thunder on the right, but President Bush should begin to keep a weather watch for a potentially unstable storm front forming on his right flank. Of course, conservatism is a house of many mansions, and it is a logical impossibility to have policies that satisfy us all. Conservatives are both muscular military interventionists and isolationists; free traders and protectionists; libertarians and cultural traditionalists.
Almost all of us believe we are anti-statist. And yet some of us want morality enforced by the state. Others are cheerfully supportive of rounding up vaguely suspicious-looking Arabs. And in fact, a majority of self-identified conservatives support such federal welfare schemes as Social Security, Medicare and even prescription drug subsidies for seniors. (Although in the last case, most conservative leaders and intellectuals oppose such an expansion of federal entitlements.) But, crosscutting all these varieties of American conservatism is a deeply visceral distaste for political compromise and expediency. And that distaste turns quickly to distrust of conservative leaders when they reach the national governing level
That instinct is the most dangerous phenomena for elected conservative leaders. A prominent conservative accused Ronald Reagan of selling out the Reagan Revolution in the spring of 1981 (he had only been in office a few months). As a conservative political activist since my days as a youth coordinator for Barry Goldwater's 1964 election campaign, I have experienced within my own mind the conflicting urges to stay pure in principle, while still winning elections that make it possible to enact my principles and values. Having campaigned and worked for both Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich, I understand the challenge that national conservatives have in trying to lead a nation that is a little right of center, but not solidly conservative in its voting patterns.
Yet, conservatives have a strong point when they argue (as Rush Limbaugh did recently regarding prescription drug subsidy legislation) that what good is it to elect conservatives who don't govern conservatively in order to win the next election (when, theoretically, they will be free to let their conservatism flower). In the interest of candor, I should note that in making that point, Rush thoroughly thrashed my editorials supporting President Bush's prescription drug bill, which passed the House by one vote.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.