Problems, Solutions & Conservatism

Matt Lewis
Posted: May 22, 2008 2:23 PM
Ezra Klein argues that both major political parties are equipped to solve different types of problems.  As such, the immediate success of a political party is directly linked to the types of problems that need to be solved at a given time:
"It's possible an Obama presidency will be so effective at communicating and conducting its foreign policy that few will ever want to trust Republicans with the military again. But broadly speaking, the set of problems that each party has relative ownership over has remained constant for the better part of a century, and that means there are times when the party seems relevant, and times when it doesn't. My hunch is these will be out years for the Republicans, but not because they're waiting for new ideas. Rather, it'll be because they're waiting for the reemergence of old problems."

This is an interesting theory, inasmuch as it essentially argues that both political parties are needed -- at different times -- to correct the other party (and to solve the full-spectrum of "problems" a nation faces.)  Moreover, Klein seems to graciously concede that conservatives are, in fact, better equipped to solve some problems (though not the ones Americans currently care about).

This also makes me think of Newt Gingrich, who went so far as to name his organization, "American Solutions."  This essay, I think, could have just as easily have been written by Gingrich, which is interesting, in and of itself.

... While there's certainly an element of truth in Klein's essay, I'm not completely sold.  I would argue this has more to do with voter's perceptions and elections than about actual problem solving and leadership.  But it's interesting, nonetheless. 

By the way, Andrew Sullivan does a good job explaining how the very premise betray's conservatism:

"For conservatism to copy liberalism by always seeking 'solutions' to problems and convincing 'the right coalitions' of people to look to government for the satisfaction of their needs would be a mistake in my view."