Columnist David Brooks recently described the traditional conservative, not to be confused with the modern, economic conservative (as in “less government, less taxes, more freedom!”). Brooks asserts that the conservative movement was a mix of these two mentalities, but in recent years the “shrinking government” mantra has come to dominate the party.
The traditional conservative, according to Brooks:
This sort of conservative didn’t see society as a battleground between government and the private sector. Instead, the traditionalist wanted to preserve a society that functioned as a harmonious ecosystem, in which the different layers were nestled upon each other: individual, family, company, neighborhood, religion, city government and national government.
This conservative believes in prudence on the grounds that society is complicated and it’s generally best to reform it steadily but cautiously. Providence moves slowly but the devil hurries.
I think Brooks makes an interesting point - the Republican Party has lost sight of this part of its base. Yes, it has the fundamentalist Christian Right, but many middle-of-the-road, regular people can’t relate to that.
As the GOP becomes more extreme, two things happen: middle class, moderate folks turn to the Democrats. But simultaneously, the entire political spectrum is pulled to the right. Mitt Romney will tell you that Obama is more liberal than ever, but if you dig into the details of our President’s economic policies, that is simply not the case.
I identify strongly as a Democrat and a liberal, but I’m with Brooks on this one - a resurgence of “traditional” conservatism might not be so bad. We need to bring the political center back to the center, and get the Republican Party out of the hands of the Tea Party. Our government can’t function without two sides that are willing, and able, to work together.