Here we are, deep into the most serious global economic crisis since 1945. We are only recently emerged from 8 years of a Republican presidency that satisfied almost nobody, Republicans very much included. You might think this would be a moment for conservative self-examination. You would be wrong.
We hear that 80 conservative leaders will gather today near George Washington’s Mt. Vernon to release a statement of principle. The statement, an advance copy of which can be read here, does a nice job of harmonizing the divergent points of view of the existing conservative establishment. But it exists in airless isolation from the actual concerns, troubles, and challenges facing the people of the country conservatives seek to lead.
* Are you an American who was earning less in 2007 than in 2000? The document has nothing to say to you.
* Did you lose your home or job or savings in the crisis of 2008-2009? Blank to you.
* Are you worried about the loss of your health insurance – or how you will pay for nursing care for your aged parents – or what 20% youth unemployment will mean for your newly graduated child’s life chances? Not our department.
* Do you wonder whether we are winning or losing the war on terror? Do you want an explanation for why it took so long for a conservative administration to react to military disaster? No answers here.
* Do you generally agree with conservatives – but wonder whether there is room in the conservative world for nonwhites, or the disabled, or the secular-minded, or the gay? The statement does not say “no,” but it does not say “yes” either.
* What about the environment? Economic competition from China? The moral implications of the biotech revolution? Illegal immigration? Educational standards? Well – what about them?
The document answers one question and one question only. If you agree that Barack Obama is engaged in a deliberate and relentless attack on the American constitutional order, well be assured: the conservative establishment is on your side. But if you think those worries are a hysterical distraction from the country’s actual problems? To you, the conservative world says: go away. We have nothing to offer you.