We Need Better Conservatives, Part II.

Tim Fernholz:

…people on the left, especially during the dark days of the early oughts, and, historically, in the eighties with the New Democrats, have shown a willingness to say, “Whoa, something isn’t working here.” Sometimes that took the form of saying that liberals need to be more pragmatic, more conservative, etc., and sometimes it took the form of people calling for a return to and revitalization of core progressive principles. Obama certainly has borrowed from both of these exercises in redefinition: He’s pragmatic in many respects, shading toward conservative in his understanding of family and faith, but also has made forthright defenses of liberal ideas on civil rights and investment.


But I, for one, would like to see a better conservative opposition, if only because I’d rather spend my days arguing about policy than trying to convince readers that liberal political candidates aren’t terrorist sympathizers. Maybe this is simply a symptom of the final days of a long and strange election, but it often feels like conservatives and liberals are talking past each other; not in the usual way, where fundamental differences in values make our various proposals incompatible, but because there are conservatives who are focusing on Obama’s imaginary “utopianism” while so many liberals are focused on asking why we’re in Iraq or what will be done about the economy. It’s certainly a metaphor for the campaign, where Obama’s bread-and-butter approach has seen a success while McCain’s character-driven campaign has thus far failed to resonate.

5 thoughts on “We Need Better Conservatives, Part II.

  1. shani-o October 29, 2008 at 9:18 am Reply

    I’d rather spend my days arguing about policy than trying to convince readers that liberal political candidates aren’t terrorist sympathizers

    If more conservatives thought that way, we’d all be better off.

  2. simply scott October 29, 2008 at 9:45 am Reply

    The problem is that neither candidate, and I think this holds true with most of the bigger elections, can afford to tell his base to go to hell. Neither can run in the middle, where I think most Americans are. I was definitely voting for John McCain at the beginning of the year, knowing that he was the kind of guy who had in the past gone his own way, against his party’s wishes, and if he’d picked Lieberman, I probably would have stuck with it. But he caved, and so he’s going to lose. Instead, it’s Obama that has come more to the center, and at the same time he’s stuck to some very strong Dem party prinicples but sold them using centric and pragmatic verbiage. He’s shown that he’s smart and he gets what the problems are. And finally, after the primaries, he started talking about what he will do instead of what he believes in. Beliefs and dreams are great, but America wants answers, and I think he’s given us that. On top of it all, I tend to think his campaign has been cleaner and sharper overall, and he’s kept out of quagmires that are easy to fall into. This is what I was hoping for with McCain — a man in the middle being honest and upfront, not slinging mud, but being a people-oriented conservative, one that connects with more than the right-wing religious fantics and xenophobes. Finally we are getting a better liberal opponent; hopefully next time the other side can ante up and America can put on a real campaign.

  3. WestIndianArchie October 29, 2008 at 11:08 am Reply

    The center is an illusion.

    The “center” is just the middle ground between two parties and an ineffectual press, and ultimately a failing education system that fails to teach college educated people to think deeply, broadly, and critically about the world around them.

    In the universe of issues, the center looks @ maybe 20-30 things that are going on. Just enough to fit onto 1 page of a party’s PDF platform.

    The parties then decide which of 2 binary positions do they pick on each issue.

    Affirmative Action – For or Against
    Abortion – For or Against
    Alternative Energy – For or Against

    The Press, rather than really think about the issue, just reports where each party stands and whether or not they flip flop.

    No one does the heavy lifting in terms of getting the public-at-large to think about the issues, causes, ramifications and alternate POV’s.

    Consider that one of Obama’s talking points was he wanted to do something about the “sub-prime mess” back in 07.

    Where was the serious policy debate in 2003 when the bubble started to inflate?

    Where is the policy debate on what kind of regulations need to be put into place now? Even the economist blogosphere is debating between, less, more, and right regulation – with no one actually suggesting workable rules.

  4. Grump October 29, 2008 at 11:19 am Reply

    Part of the discussion is always going to include gathering as many opinions and ideas(but not solid answers) on how to view the problem before actually attempting to fix it. So that once enough has been talked about, and this holds true in regards to national politics, a solution can be created that will appease/please those on both sides of the spectrum.

  5. ladyfresshh October 29, 2008 at 12:32 pm Reply

    Unfortunately the conservative leadership position of the past 8 years has been to admit no mistakes. This seemed to have fooled the public for a few years but the mistakes and errors have become so glaring that only a fool would maintain that position. Unfortunately conservatives are showing themselves to be those fools with a public who can no longer afford to entertain an emperor with no clothes.

    Democratic errors have been a lack of ownership and pride in their positions, nuance was needed and has been brought in fantastic packaging.

    Most people tend to speak to extremities of position while their day to day lives are lived in ideological moderation. We regular folk mainly seek practical compromises and solutions but expect our politics to represent ideals that are not practical. Seeing the government swing so far to the right i think was a bit too frightening with regards to the results. Most of the republican talking heads have been left in an extreme political mode not realizing the tide has begun to shift towards a center position and they have played catch up a bit too late.

    All this to say yes we do need better conservatives.

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