Is Conservatism Finished?

That’s the title of a piece by Wilfred McClay in the January issue of Commentary. McClay focuses on the various discontents with President Bush expressed by real conservatives like Jeffrey Hart and bogus ones like Andrew Sullivan. Bush ran and was elected twice as a center-right candidate, not as a pure conservative. It’s not surprising, therefore, that some conservatives are unhappy with his outlook and many of his policies. But I think McClay successfully dispatches claims that Bush has betrayed conservatism by (1) pushing (to one degree or another depending on the context) for democratization and modernization in the Middle East and (2) being an evangelical Christian whose rhetoric and actions are informed to some extent by his faith.
McClay notes in passing the view expressed by a few conservatives in 2006 that a Republican defeat would be a healthy development for conservatism. After reading McClay’s piece, I think the sense in which that sentiment comes closest to being true is this: it may well take being out of power for the various factions of the Reagan coalition to appreciate once again how much they need each other.
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