In part 1 I discussed why conservatives consider Ronald Reagan to be a great conservative. Reagan has become the gold standard for conservative politicians. The natural follow-on to this is to consider how our current situation compares to this gold standard.
Claremont McKenna College professor of government Andrew E. Busch discusses this precise matter in this article. Busch contrasts the Reagan experience with the George W. Bush experience. Although Bush entered the presidency with little foreign policy strength, 9/11 brought us a changed man that has provided “one of the few areas in recent years where the public has perceived Republicans to be the stronger party.”
This is important with respect to the upcoming mid-term elections, because many people understand that the national security issue trumps all other issues. Without adequate national security, our nation, along with all of the other issues people care about today, will cease to exist. Many voters will still vote for those they consider to be the strongest on national security, even if they hate war.
On social conservatism, Busch contends that the President “is no more socially conservative than Reagan, in policy or in rhetoric.” But he says that Bush seems to be more focused on social conservatism simply because he is so weak on economic conservatism.
And that is where Busch claims the President’s and the GOP’s real problems lie. He claims that nobody really buys the President’s message of compassionate conservatism, which Busch argues “could be said to be limited-government conservatism minus fiscal restraint, a discourse on constitutionalism, and a disdain for politically correct shibboleths.”
By taking the road of political expediency (promoting a policy they don’t believe in simply for political gain) instead of adhering to basic conservative principles, Busch says that the GOP will reap the whirlwind, where “opportunism will bring [and is bringing] its own punishment.” Voters realize the GOP is pandering and they are more and more regarding the party with disdain.
Busch calls for a return to basic conservative principles of limited government. He contends that there is no reason for the GOP to sugar-coat or hide from its principles.
Busch argues that “if the laws of economics and the laws of human nature have changed so that centralized state power no longer threatens prosperity, liberty, or civic virtue--then by all means, the argument for limited government should be allowed to slide into disuse.” But he does not believe this to be the case. He thinks that the only way the GOP can improve its situation is by a strong return to the principles of limited government.
There’s one problem with this. President Bush doesn’t believe in it, and he is the de facto leader of the GOP. Busch’s arguments should not be lost on GOP presidential wannabes and congressional conservatives who will be the future of the party. But today we have to deal with the president we have rather than some mythical president that perfectly toes the conservative line.
Let’s face it; President Bush is not going to turn into a fiscal conservative. He’s not going to suddenly become a proponent of limited government, except, perhaps in some of his rhetoric leading up to the November elections. Consequently, I agree with Andrew Busch when he says that George W. Bush is unlikely to generate a cohort similar to those that still revere Ronald Reagan and the principles he stood for. 20 years from now there will be no significant core constituency of 30-44-year-old conservatives like there is today.