Back to the 1970s?


A reader writes:

It's quite depressing. My vote for Jim Webb was my first vote for a Democrat for national office, and I cast my vote knowing that the Dems wouldn't be any more "small government" than the GOP, but hoping that perhaps the number of centrist Democrats that were being elected would pull them away from the precipice of leftism.  Well, early indicators suggest the Democrats are prepared to do just what they said they'd do (higher taxes, pull away from the war, no new, engaging ideas), while the Republicans, instead of being taught a lesson, are circling the wagons, promoting yet more Bush cronies (Martinez, anyone?) and digging up relics from the past like Lott and Baker to do damage control.  (Who'd have thought that the Bush 41 gang, which once experienced its own revolt from small government conservatives, would now be the lesser of many evils?)

I'm not old enough to remember the early '70s, but if I had to guess, I'd say that period in American history was a lot like this one for small government types. Both parties were essentially big government. The president was a Republican liberal who tried to pass off bigotry as conservatism and tried to spend his way out of every problem. The nation was involved in an endless war for which there was no solution yet no one would admit as much.  And the only hope small government conservatives had was to hope that the parties would act as a check on one another's authoritarian impulses and that the country would survive because of gridlock. 

At least back then there was a budding small governmentism on the horizon (Goldwater, Reagan). Now, I fear that there is none. As much as I love Rudy and hope that he's the next president, even I am forced to admit that he doesn't come from the same Tory strain as Goldwater and Reagan. And the other likely future POTUS, McCain, has displayed his big government sympathies before. I think America may be entering the sort of period that California and Britain are now experiencing, where the best we can hope for in our leaders is immoderate centrism (Blair, Cameron, Schwarzenegger) that ends up looking a lot more like traditional conservatism in practice, despite not being rooted there in principle.

Not quite "Morning in America," but I suppose we'll survive.

(Photo of a reincarnated head of Richard Nixon from the great "Futurama," the once and now future cartoon series from Matt Groening et al.)