Thursday, December 8, 2005

Conservative Sputtering

Hiding behind the veil of TimesSelect, David Brooks admits that the conservatives have run out of ideas.

Conservatives are in power but out of sorts. Fifty years after the founding of the modern right, conservatives hold just about every important government job, yet the conservative agenda has stalled. Federal spending has surged. Social Security reform is dead. And when voters are asked which party they trust on key issues, they decisively reject conservative ideas.

On the economy, Democrats are trusted more, 56 to 34. On education, it’s Democrats 55 to 32. On taxes, Democrats 48 to 38. On health care, Democrats 54 to 29.

For members of a movement that is supposed to be winning the battle of ideas, conservatives are in a mess.

He ticks off a list of conservative failings: they’re out of touch, they’re corrupt, and they’ve become fat and lazy. The only saving grace, he says, is that the Democrats aren’t much better.

No matter how serious the conservative crisis is, liberals remain surpassingly effective at making themselves unelectable.

There’s a dose of wishful thinking for you. (Of course, Mr. Brooks has to say that or they won’t let him sit at the cool kids’ table anymore.) However, the voters of Virginia and New Jersey seem to think that Democrats offer new ideas, and even in Sugar Land, Texas, home of the most visible conservative in America, the indicted Rep. Tom DeLay, polling indicates that he loses to a generic Democratic opponent. In California, the governor has appointed a liberal Democrat as his chief of staff as he faces a daunting re-election, and in the 2004 elections the axiom of “all politics is local” took on enhanced meaning when more Democrats were elected to state legislatures than Republicans. The march to the brink continues with the meltdown of the Ohio Republican party, the continuing investigation of the CIA leak, and more tales to come from the Abramhoff influence-peddling story. Republicans are facing strong challenges in state races from New Mexico to Pennsylvania, and so far the most visible Republican presidential candidate in 2008 is John McCain, who has had to go hat in hand to the right-wing of his party to convince them that he’s really one of them.

Meanwhile the most important thing the conservatives can argue about is the White House Christmas card and whether or not we should wish someone a “Merry Christmas.” When you get down to that kind of discourse, you are really running on fumes.