Conservative Contingencies

April 10, 2009 at 11:25 am (tWP) (, , , , , , , , )


These are gloomy times for conservatives worldwide.

W. Bush's W. Churchill bust

W. Bush's W. Churchill bust

The Americas have now clearly turned left; Latin America especially but also the US. Australia has also seen its conservative government fall. Exceptions to the global trend appear to be Italy, Japan, Mexico and of course Eastern Europe.

In Europe at large, things are neck to neck. The French remain conservative but things are tied in Ireland, Germany and the Nordic countries. Portugal Spain and the UK are on the left.

The recent victory of the Democrats in the US has put the Republicans in disarray. Moreover, the economic crisis has further launched the American Republicans and the Right all over the world into some soul-searching.

The historical popularity lows George W. Bush faced near the end of his term and the respective repercussions for the Republicans were initially blamed on the Neoconservatives who have since been lustrated from a number of think-tanks and public positions. However with the dire consequences of the economic crisis caused by over deregulation, the Neoliberals themselves are taking a beating.

Reaganomics and Thatcherism

Reaganomics and Thatcherism

In less than a year, the Conservatives have lost their foreign policy and economic policy paladins. Iraq and Lehman Bros. are now taboos for the Conservatives who have been trying to make some sense of their values and political philosophy. The ideological crisis too is deep and will not be easily overcome.

There are two trends among Conservatives: the radical tendency and the centrist tendency. The radicals are moving towards Libertarianism and the moderates towards plain old Liberalism. Libertarianism offers what libertariansConservatives traditionally pander to. They want less government, no taxes and an isolationist foreign policy. Liberals on the other hand appreciate the judgement of John Maynard Keynes and don’t discard some social programs as well as the occasional humanitarian intervention. Both trends have upsides and downsides. While Libertarians accept religious beliefs as compatible with economic and political philosophy, the Liberals’ centrist option would most likely lead them to concede to more progressive attitudes in social issues such as abortion or gay marriage. With Libertarianism, Conservatives might be able to harmonise “fiscal conservatism” and the alliance with the evangelical right. On the other hand bipartisanship would be out of the equation and on the short term the Conservatives would find themselves isolated in the political arena.

Of course the middle ground exists.

ayn-randAmong Libertarians we find the Objectivist school which upholds minimal government while rejecting religious interference in affairs of state and the anarcho-capitalist streaks of the ultra-Libertarians. The Objectivists also promote a somewhat interventionist role in order to defend “liberal” (capitalist, democratic, humanitarian) practices abroad and prevent the totalitarian threat from gaining ground. It would seem that the Objectivist school of thought might be particularly appealing to disgruntled Neocons but so far there is no indication of such a rift – despite a few exceptions.

Far from becoming followers of Ayn Rand, the Neocons seem to be consolidating what little ground they have, as they banded together their foreign allies in a 2007 meeting in Prague of think-tanks like the Czech PSSI, the Spanish FAES or the Israeli AISS. As recent as past February the Neocons founded a new think-tank called the Foreign Policy Initiative. Perhaps as the Iraq War progresses more favourably to the US, they believe that they are finally being vindicated and any potential dissidence wanes as a consequence.

Last but not least, lets not forget that the Left itself is not in a state of grace. The 90s flirt with Neoliberalism should reflect as negatively on them as it does on the Right and even though it was always critical of Neoconservatism, one sees no inkling anywhere in the world, to call Realists to government. The Keynesians are having their finest hour in decades, but the fact remains that a solid alternative economic theory is yet to emerge from the Left who seems to simply deal with this crisis’ whimsical downturns as they come along.

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3 Comments

  1. SGL said,

    well done!

  2. Alex said,

    Thank God conservatism is falling! Maybe we can begin to repair the devastation wrought by the Reagan Revolution and the triumph of neoconservativism.

  3. M. Silva said,

    The Neocons downfall though does not extend to civil society.

    They may be more isolated in the academia but yesterday The Weekly Standard had a pundit in both Fox and CNN to comment on the Obama foreign policy.

    Again, why do the media still care about what they say? and where are the Realists?

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