He puts it much better than I can in a March column I missed:
I don’t think of myself as having gone squishy. I think of myself as having grown sober. And my conservative critics? On them, I think the most apt verdict was delivered by Niccolo Macchiavelli, 500 years ago: “This is the tragedy of man. Circumstances change, and he does not.”
Read the whole thing. He has not changed his core principles or beliefs and they remain, as mine do, well within the boundaries of what we might call the conservative disposition. But his critical move is to believe that political ideology should react to changing circumstances, not become ossified and abstract. And so the catastrophic market failure of the 2008 requires rethinking the rules for the market; the mounting evidence of the relationship between carbon use and climate change needs to be tackled, not ignored or simply dismissed; and the Burkean evolution of a society not obviously careening off the rails is something to be respected and engaged, not attacked and ignored. This is also a brilliant summation of where the right went wrong on social issues:
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, we’d been fighting to protect the common-sense instincts of ordinary people from elite interference. Now, in the Terri Schiavo euthanasia case, with stem cell research, on gay rights issues, it was we who had become the interfering elite, against a society that was reaching its own new equilibrium.
I have had many differences with David but I agree with him that conservatism in the end must be about governing the world as it is - not venting against a world that will not change. I don't think David has fully absorbed the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, but we can agree to disagree. But that he is now banished from the "conservative" tribe says far, far more about the degeneracy of the right than the alleged fickleness of the dissenters.
(Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty.)