It`s Over: The Washington Post Celebrates `Compassionate Conservatism.`
In point of fact, the Post
for once is correct, though the change in the American
right hardly began last week. It`s been going on
virtually ever since the Reagan administration, if not
before, but as the Post also grasped, the change
is more or less culminating this year. [“GOP
Departures Signal Arrival of a New Era For Conservatism”
by Helen Dewar, Washington Post,
September 16, 2002]
Not only will Mr. Smith take his
leave from Washington but so will several other elder or
aging statesmen of the political right—the seemingly
Strom Thurmond, who at the ripe age of 99 is
retiring at the end of the year; Sen. Jesse Helms, once
the left`s favorite demon, who is also retiring; as well
as the amiable Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas.
In their place, we have such
pillars of iron as Sen.
Sam Brownback of Kansas, who assures the Post
that the conservatism of the present day is "not
hard-edged; it`s caring."
"The era of sharp-elbowed conservatism is over,"
Mr. Wittman glowed.
"The hard-core social and
economic conservatism has lost its edge." Today, in
their place, you see, "we have
and compassionate conservatives."
And so we do. Whether they`re
worth having is another question.
The Post, of course, is
absolutely delighted at the revolution the departure of
Thurmond, Helms and their colleagues represents. The
advent of a softer, gentler conservatism means that the
undiluted liberalism espoused by the Post will be
less likely to suffer resistance.
But the truth is that Mr. Thurmond
has not sported a sharp elbow in decades, while even Mr.
Helms` appendages seem a bit dull in recent years.
(These days, he`s supporting
amnesty for illegal aliens and
more government funding to fight AIDS in Africa.)
But however they may have mellowed,
the end of the careers of these gentlemen does mean that
the issues and principles they fought for will leave
abortion, racial politics and big government were
the four-part framework within which the old right of
these legislators flourished. The first, of course, is
completely gone today and can make a plausible case of
having won the Cold War. Abortion shows no sign of
returning to the alleys, and the Supreme Court case that
Roe v. Wade, is unlikely to be reversed.
Republicans themselves now slobber over
racial pandering even more than the Democrats, and
the GOP and its
big brains have all but abandoned
affirmative action and
immigration. Small government and strict
construction constitutionalism are largely moribund; the
most conservatives today will fight for has to do with
spending and taxes, not the actual scope of
So the brutal truth is that the
sharp-elbow crowd never accomplished an awful lot;
American conservatism, as it flourished between the
New Deal and the end of the Cold War, was pretty
much of a flop, and now it`s essentially dead.
But don`t expect the compassionate,
caring, Big Government conservatism that Sen. Brownback
and Mr. Wittman (and the Post) are crowing over
to do much better. What they mean is that they have
redefine conservatism into something more compatible
with the liberalism whose dominance the right has failed
to overturn and now has accepted.
It`s not true, for example, that
the conservatism of the Thurmond-Helms generation was
less "caring" or less "compassionate" than the current
crop. The right of that day certainly cared about and
felt compassion for victims of real injustice—the
communism liberals either ignored or lied about; the
innocent blood shed by the
killers for whom liberals felt
so sorry; the lives and characters wrecked by the
moral and social experiments in counter-culture that
the left glorified.
What separated the "caring" and
"compassion" of the right and the left is not that one
cared and the other didn`t but that they each had
entirely different and conflicting visions of what
justice is and who deserved what.
What has happened now is not that
George W. Bush and lawmakers like Mr. Brownback have
discovered that "compassion" is good but that they have
accommodated themselves and their own concepts of
standards approaching those of liberalism.
In other words, we`re not really
any more "caring" or "compassionate" – we`re just less
note: Here at VDARE.COM, we call this phenomenon
“Goldbergism” after its most (self-)
But it remains to be seen if the voters who elected men
like Mr. Thurmond and Mr. Helms decade after decade have
gone quite as dull in the elbows as today`s soft right
wants to think.
September 19, 2002