The End of Conservatism?

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For some reason, The New Republic has decided to embarrass the talented and perceptive John Judis by digging out of its archives a piece that he wrote announcing the death of conservatism ... in, er, 1992. The piece "holds up remarkably well," Max Fisher writes by way of introduction, which I suppose is one way of descriping an essay that sounds an awful lot like the epitaphs for conservatism being penned amid the current Republican crisis - but that has the disadvantage of having been written some sixteen years ago, amid a brief false dawn for liberalism, and just before the Republican Revolution of 1994. Since we're talking about Bill Weld in other contexts, I thought I'd highlight this passage:

While some older conservatives like Kristol have increasingly identified with the fundamentalist critique of modern society -- last year Kristol published an extended polemic in Commentary against "secular humanism" -- younger conservatives on campus and on congressional staffs tend to be far more cosmopolitan in their attitudes. According to one estimate, about 50 percent of the members of Ivy League conservative organizations and about 75 percent of the Washington Bush-Quayle staff are pro-choice. And many Washington conservatives such as Policy Review editor Adam Meyerson see Massachusetts's pro-choice, pro-gay rights Governor Weld as a promising presidential choice.

Alas, for the lost Weld Presidency!

Seriously, there are all sorts of reasons to think the current conservative crisis is rather more dire than the post-Reagan blues that gripped the Right when Judis was penning his premature obituary. But the fact that a "conservatism is dead!" piece from sixteen years ago seems to offer such an apt description of our own era should offer conservatives at least a small measure of encouragement as they prepare to take their lumps next Tuesday.

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Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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