John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge of The Economist cant understand why American conservatives seem depressed lately. Sure, the Bush administration has suffered a few minor setbacks, but these are not at all atypical of second-term presidents. But, the two journalists remind us, "There are two
questions that really matter in assessing the current state of
conservatism: What direction is America moving in? And how does the
United States compare with the rest of the world? The answer to both
questions should encourage the right."
Their article (sorry, for subscribers only) reminds us that George W. Bush won with an out-and-out conservative message, and that a full one-third of voters self-identified as "conservative," as opposed to only one-fifth who called themselves "liberal." As a result, "Mr. Bush could afford to lose "moderates" to
Mr. Kerry by nine points -- and still end up with 51% of the vote, more
than any Democrat has got since 1964."
Mickelthwait and Wooldridge also encourage conservatives to look at divisions within the GOP in a more favorable light:
The Democrats would give a lot to have a big-tent party as capacious as the Republicans. One of the reasons the GOP manages to contain Southern theocrats as well as Western libertarians is that it encourages arguments rather than suppressing them. Go to a meeting of young conservatives in Washington and the atmosphere crackles with ideas, much as it did in London in the heyday of the Thatcher revolution. The Democrats barely know what a debate is.
Indeed, the two point out, "the left has reached the same level of fury that the right
reached in the 1960s -- but with none of the intellectual inventiveness." They have no sort of agenda aside from knee-jerk opposition to every administration policy.
Mickelthwait and Wooldridge, by the way, are the authors of the recently-published book The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, a history of the revival of the American Right since the 1960s, which ranks high on my summer reading list.