Friday, May 9, 2008

British conservative revival

David Brooks has an interesting column on the resurgence of the British Conservative Party. The whole thing is worth reading, and it is certainly worth taking note of what is happening with our brothers across the pond.

British conservatives, according to Brooks, are winning with an approach that seems to take the gains of the Thatcher years for granted, moving beyond a purely economic emphasis:

They want voters to think of the Tories as the party of society while Labor is the party of the state. They want the country to see the Tories as the party of decentralized organic networks and the Laborites as the party of top-down mechanistic control.

As such, the Conservative Party has spent a lot of time thinking about how government should connect with citizens. Basically, everything should be smaller, decentralized and interactive. They want a greater variety of schools, with local and parental control. They want to reverse the trend toward big central hospitals. Health care, Cameron says, is as much about regular long-term care as major surgery, and patients should have the power to construct relationships with caretakers, pharmacists and local facilities.

Cameron also believes government should help social entrepreneurs scale up their activities without burdening them with excessive oversight.

Brooks of course notes that American conservatives are unlikely to adopt the precise model -- which is as it should be, since we haven't seen long-term success there yet, or the results of the policies and approach. More to the point, too many American conservatives can't distinguish the fine art of applying the time-tested lessons of the past from the deadly political disease of actually living mentally in the past.

But it is undeniable that the Republican Party needs a makeover, in which traditional conservative principles are applied with a creative and fresh -- even cold-eyed -- approach to the situation that America faces today, as opposed to the situation that Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan faced from the 1960's to the 1980's.

It may be that it was that Mike Huckabee was just in town, or it may be due to the fact that Brooks was unquestionably an admirer of Huckabee during the last primary season, making the themes sound familiar, but it was hard not to think of him when reading this article and wondering whether we have anyone comparable to Cameron in our leadership ranks.

He's probably not the guy -- he has been too much painted into a corner. Unfairly, yes, but that's politics. But whoever is thinking that they have the political chops to make a fresh start needs to look at what made John McCain and Mike Huckabee the most successful of our political candidates this season. And looking at our friends in Britain to see what is happening there won't hurt, either. Which brings a recent New Criterion piece by John O'Sullivan to mind -- but more on that later.

1 comment:

live dangerously said...

Nice blog. I was captured by the David Brooks article. Finally some new ground being broken. This is a blueprint for explaining the mass appeal of conservative ideals. I blogged about the article too. I also happened to listen to Arthur Brooks on Rightalk Radio after he was recommeneded by Newt Gingrich. I tied the two Brooks together in my blog and title. lol. Anyway I'm finally excited, a breath of fresh air.
Regards, Live Dangerously Be A Conservative.
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