Thursday, December 20, 2007

Back to Basics

I've talked about neo-conservatism ad nauseum in this blog and my former blog, and Real Clear Politics, without actually using the "n" word (no, not "nappy"), talks about the emptiness of neo-conservatism when compared to the real thing.

I want to suggest to perplexed conservatives sorting through the credentials of Romney-Huckabee-Giuliani-Thompson-Paul-McCain that no one matches in substance and appeal the man who, in our hearts, we knew to be right: Barry himself. I want to suggest this not by way of whomping up some sentimental pilgrimage back to ye olden tyme. I suggest Barry as a model for the principled conservatism so many seem to seek vainly and despondently. Those Republicans, for instance, who can't figure out what the Republican message is or should be....

Our guy -- whom Lyndon Johnson imagined he had disposed of in '64, only to find Barry's ideas taking up more and more space in politics -- knew clearly enough what he was about. Freedom was what he was about -- "the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of social order."

That's from p. 13 of "The Conscience of a Conservative," which was the Goldwater movement's philosophical charter. Barry didn't write the book himself. He did something better: He thought it through. He concluded that the challenge for conservatives was "to preserve and extend freedom." He wanted not to expand government but to shrink it. He yearned to hear a presidential candidate say, "I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden."...

The straight-on quest for freedom - why wouldn't that resonate far more powerfully than some laundry list of promises and proposals aimed at General Uplift? And what's stopping the present generation of would-be conservative champions from bearing down on that essential point? Don't they care? Because if they do, you can't necessarily tell from watching.

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