State of the Union
David Frum and Peter Beinart wrote a pair of cover stories (“The Great Republican Revolt” and “Why America Is Moving Left”) for the January/February issue assessing the current and future political landscape in the United States.
David Frum’s and Peter Beinart’s complementary essays omit a major reason for Republican disarray and the leftward drift of the American electorate—the bankruptcy of conservative ideology. American conservatism rests on two crude concepts. One is free-market fundamentalism (unless the interests of the wealthy are threatened). The second is a form of American exceptionalism that sees American power and wealth as the rewards of special virtue. Rather than broad prosperity, the neoliberal era brought most Americans economic stagnation. The hubris of American exceptionalism brought the worst foreign-policy decisions in more than a generation. The conservative response has been sterile repetition of discredited ideas, appeals to bigotry to attract popular support, and congressional obstructionism.
Rather than being a “shining city upon a hill,” the U.S. is exceptional in being history’s greatest environmental malefactor. The failure of conservative ideology is implicitly acknowledged by the many Republican politicians whose only response to climate change is to deny its existence. Denial of realities and appeals to bigotry may work for limited periods, but an intellectually hollow movement is condemned to long-term decline.