Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Where is the Republican Vision?

Steven Warshawski at the American Thinker blog asks in a recent post, Where is the Republican Vision?:

As for the other candidates, they all, more or less, mouthed the "correct" Republican positions on Iraq, taxes, abortion (except Giuliani and, to a lesser extent, Gilmore), stem cell research, and the various other items, mostly trivial, that the moderators decided to ask about.  But holding "conservative" positions on a set of discrete issues is not the same thing as possessing a real vision for the future of America, let alone offering a practical political program for achieving it.

This lack of vision spells trouble for the Republican Party in 2008.  The American people, on both the left and the right, are dissatisfied with the state of the country today.  They do not want to continue along the same course we are on, whether the issue is Iraq or immigration or health care or the family or [fill in the blank].  They are going to want their next president to speak in terms of "change" and "reform."  The candidate who is best able to harness this mood and attach it to a coherent political program is going to be our next president.
The bottom line is that if Republicans do not offer a compelling conservative vision for America, rather than just a series of issue positions, they will have little chance of winning the White House in 2008.  Based on last week's debate, there is a palpable vision deficit among the current crop of Republican presidential candidates.  It still is early, of course.  My advice to the candidates is to go home and think long and hard why the American people must elect them president in 2008.  If they cannot answer that question in convincing fashion, they should get out of the race, or be prepared to lose.       

Unfortunately Warshawki's advice will not be successful. The problem of the "vision deficit among the current crop of Republican presidential candidates" is more fundamental.

A political movement whose motto is "Standing athwart history yelling stop" is not likely to be fertile ground for developing inspiring visions of the future. This failure of vision is rooted in the inaptness of attempting to transplant a European-style "conservatism" to America. The American Experiment is not conservative and never has been. The very idea of a society being an experiment is the antithesis of conservatism. The conservatives in Europe were trying to preserve a pre-modern social order against a rising modernity. That effort was a failure. Industrialization, liberalism, socialism, nationalism, the scientific revolution and other aspects of modernization transformed European society and the pre-modern world conservatives were defending is gone. America never had the kind of pre-modern social order that existed in Europe and much of the rest of the world. America has been a country of tremendous dynamism: we have been willing to experiment with social, political, religious, economic and other institutions. America is the quintessence of modernity. I have no idea why anyone would think that a backward-looking Old World conservatism would be appropriate, let alone even possible, in a future-oriented, entrepreneurial, dynamic America populated by a people driven to build a better future. Or why anyone would think that branding this dynamic American Experiment as "conservative" is a good marketing decision.

If we want to inspire people with a future vision of America, that (unlike conservatism) can successfully counter the socialistic-technocratic vision of the left, then we have to engage in political entrepreneurship, and create a movement that is an appropriate vehicle for the true spirit of the American Experiment. And that spirit has nothing to do with "standing athwart history yelling stop," it's about looking into the future and saying "let's go!"

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