Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Running on Empty

Harold Meyerson on the end of the Rovian conservative movement.

So how have Republican conservatives managed to be on the losing end of so many primaries?

It’s not just that the conservative vote has been split between Romney and Huckabee. It’s also that conservatives have run out of agenda.

With his preemptive war and seemingly permanent occupation in Iraq, and his attempt to privatize Social Security, George W. Bush pushed American conservatism past the point where the American people were willing to go — pushed them, in fact, to the point where they recoiled at the conservative project. And with that, American conservatism shuddered to a halt. In the 2005-06 congressional session, Republicans still controlled both houses of Congress, yet they introduced no major legislation.

This exhaustion of conservatism has been apparent all along in the Republican presidential contest, where the chief point of agreement among the leading candidates has been to make permanent both the Bush tax cuts for the rich and our occupation of Iraq. The conservative agenda has been winnowed down to supporting what remains of Bushism. That’s not only a losing formula for November, it also means that intellectually, conservatism is running on empty.

This is also what happens when you try to rule instead of govern; when all you care about is winning an election instead of the doing the hard work that comes after. The conservatives never really thought about that part of it, did they?