Anti-Communism, Safety Nets for the Truly Needy and Compassionate Conservatism
The conservative movement lost two of their greatest leaders last week with the passing of Irving Kristol (pictured) and William Safire.
Forty years ago, before he went on to become one of the great journalists at The New York Times, Safire, while a speechwriter for Vice-President Spiro Agnew, famously characterized critics of President Richard Nixon’s war strategy as “nattering nabobs of negativism.” Also, in the late 1960’s, Kristol launched The Public Interest, a political journal which came to define a large number of former liberal Democrats that defected to the GOP in large part due to their rejection of the anti-anti-communist left that seized control of the Democratic Party.
These former Democrats came to be dubbed “neo-conservatives” by socialist writer Michael Harrington in 1973 due to their continuing sympathies for big government on domestic policy, despite their more conservative social values and advocacy of an aggressive foreign policy to promote Liberty abroad.
Safire’s speech writing partner for Agnew, Pat Buchanan contemporaneously characterized weak on defense liberals at the time as “pusillanimous pussyfooters” and with the election of his future boss president Ronald Reagan and later Bush 43, America embraced a neoconservatism for three decades that won the Cold War and so aggressively responded to 911 that America’s homeland has enjoyed eight years of peace.
In so doing, the conservative movement embraced an optimistic vision of America as the Shining City on a Hill. I find it quite telling, with respect to foreign policy, just how much more divided the country is today on war and peace, even as compared to the 1960s. Reagan chose Nixon over John F. Kennedy in 1960 partly due to his perception that the Republican Party was stringer on defense than the democrats. Yet, could that “bear any burden in the cause of liberty” Democrat possibly remain in the party of ObamaDems today? I think not.
But Reagan’s conversion from an FDR-New Dealer to the GOP was also driven by more traditional conservative principles of smaller government which conflicted with the more liberal views of the neo-cons. Reagan seemed to have united the two factions of the party and dispelled the liberal myth of a heartless conservatism that would starve the old and weak, with his declaration as President that he favored a federal “safety net for the truly needy.”
Reagan was unable to reduce the size of the federal government in domestic affairs with Democratic congresses, nor was Newt Gingrich with a Democratic president. But, the growth was greatly slowed for two decades with President Bill Clinton famously declaring in 1995 that the “era of big government was over.”
It wasn’t, and even more significantly, neither of the two the leading candidates for the GOP nomination in 2000 could be characterized as movement conservatives, with the eventual winner even calling himself a “compassionate conservative”, seemingly accepting the false liberal media slander that conservatism is inherently indifferent to the poor.
I don’t know if the neo-cons that I embraced in 2001 due to their advocacy of an aggressive arsenal of democracy largely due to the persuasive rhetoric of Kristol’s son Bill of The Weekly Standard, were partially to blame for Bush 43’s surrender to Senator Kennedy on the Education bill and Medicare Rx Drug legislation that greatly increased the size of domestic government.
I suspect that what we have witnessed in the GOP’s dismal performance on this score in the 2000s is, as George Will asserts rather a manifestation of We the People’s predilection for philosophical conservatism but operational liberalism. We want our cake and we want to eat it too. Robert Bork sees as as slouching towards Gomorrah.
I thank God that Irving Kristol and those that followed left the Democratic Party to form a majority that lifted the darkness of tyranny from millions that has also made this sweet land of liberty safer.
But I also hope that the exponentially worse example of the humongous government growthulus policies of the ObamaDems for the past nine months births a domestic policy neo-conservative movement for the 21st Century that looks more like the conservatism of, Grover Cleveland, the last Democratic Party President of the 19th Century. Or has it already begun in the name of Sarah Palin?
Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer, Examiner.com and Minority Report columns
“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson
Originally published @ Examiner.com, where all verification links may be accessed.