WASHINGTON -- And so after the Nov. 4 presidential election, American conservatives have been thrust into the wilderness again. All we have to comfort us is the L.L. Bean catalogue. Winston Churchill, during his wilderness years, had Pol Roger and a fistful of Havanas. Nowadays smoking is malum prohibitum almost everywhere, and even in the wilderness, a lit cigar would be highly controversial. Thus we are left with L.L. Bean, but the catalogue features colorful parkas, sturdy boots -- all the accouterments to make life in the wilderness almost plush. So our wilderness years may not be so bad.
Yet to hear some of the pundits tell it, we conservatives are going to be out here with the flora and fauna for many years. I hope to get a tent not far from Sarah Palin. She is very cute and can handle a firearm. Just the other day, pundit David Brooks, writing in The New York Times, predicted that "the Republican Party will probably veer right in the years ahead, and suffer more defeats." He noted that the "Traditionalists" (read conservatives) have been meeting "to plot strategy" to ensure their hold on the defeated Republican Party, meaning more chill years out here in the poison ivy, with the wolves and the coyotes nearby. Sarah, keep the gun handy!
Brooks' alternative is to side with those conservatives whom he dubbed the "Reformers," cleareyed thinkers who believe that "G.O.P. priorities were fine for the 1970s but need to be modernized for new conditions." Truth be known, the GOP "priorities" of the 1970s were not Reaganite priorities. Those conservative priorities came to power with the Old Cowboy in 1981, and they have been regnant ever since. Even Bill Clinton was influenced by them. Brooks' Reformers want conservatives "to pay attention to the way the country has changed." They consider the conservatives' advocacy of limited government passe, and they prescribe big government to address "inequality" and "to take global warming seriously."
Doubtless, as the Reformers say, the country has changed over the years, but some of that change has been a tilt against the old liberal priorities. The majority of the American people still favor tax cuts over tax increases, 55 to 19 percent, according to Scott Rasmussen's recent polls. Even the "social issues" so admired by the conservatives and so embarrassing to the Reformers fare well in the polls. In California and Florida, heterosexual-marriage votes won with the support of large numbers of black and Hispanic Democrats who otherwise voted for Sen. Barack Obama. I understand that the social issues are controversial with many in the media, but the fact is that they win the approval of substantial majorities within the electorate, who perhaps recognize that the opposite of social values is anti-social values.