Too much for a comment…
I can understand the need to “govern from the center” but I think this article completely misses the point of this last election, but I’ll come back to that.
First the author contradicts himself when he says:
“The difficulty, of course, is that a conservatism that cares only about “limited government,” “fiscal discipline” and preaching about “traditional moral values” will shy away from Levin’s practical, problem-solving approach”
So first they’re not natural allies but then they’re lumped together as one? I’ll come back to that as well.
Second the contention that the “creative destruction” of market forces is by definition at odds with family values is simply ridiculous:
“Traditional values…discourage the spirit of competition and self-interested ambition essential for free markets to work, and their adherents sometimes seek to enforce codes of conduct that constrain individual freedom.”
Maybe I’m a little naïve, but a good portion of the “free-market” success books I have read (and I have read several) talk about the importance of putting ethics and morals at the forefront of your business agenda. Pretending that family values and free-market competition are mutually exclusive (macro-economically and micro-economically) sounds good, but it just doesn’t hold water. Market forces have a tendency to eventually punish destructive evil-doers on a large scale (Enron, etc.), and it’s those forces that create the right checks and balances on future corruption.
But this is where “Progressives” simply do not get it. The whole premise here is that free-markets are by definition selfish and not moral, and “values voters” need the Federal Government to enforce their morals and values. “Christian Conservatives” (and let’s go ahead and call them that because that’s what we’re talking about) do not consider the Federal Government to be the authority of moral values and ethics, and never have considered it that.
Actually, in my opinion, (and this is important if you want to understand my views on this) the whole foundation of our fine Republic is the concept that a Higher Power is where our faith and trust should be laid, and the true authority over morals and values lies there. The government, on the other hand, is created by us to serve and protect us, and not the other way around. This is why Fascism (the State is the religion), Communism (the party is the religion), Socialism (the “council” is the religion), Theocracy (the religion is the government) NEVER WORK, and WILL NEVER WORK. Because they truly do not separate church and state.
Unfortunately, this is where I believe Libertarianism has its limit; it doesn’t acknowledge the importance of religion, but depends on individuals to have their own moral center, which typically results in SOMETHING filling that authority gap…namely a regime that is the exact opposite of Libertarianism (see above).
However, Libertarianism has it right that market forces are more efficient at managing market forces than the government, and there is nothing about Christian Conservatism that would disagree with that.
Now there is the point that if Mr. Dionne were talking about lobbying groups that are pushing for less or more Federal Government controls on social and economic issues, he would be right that the two ideals are definitely at odds.
But that’s not what he’s talking about. He’s talking about voters…”the parenting class”. He tells us that the crucial segment making $30,000 to $100,000 went over to the Democrats because of the Republicans’ “flight from a solution-oriented politics designed to deal with the pressures on working- and middle-class families.”
Probably true. But if this is a sign of a divide between Libertarianism and the “Traditionalist” right, and the Republican party leaned too far to the far right, meaning the “Christian Right”, does that mean the security moms, disaffected men, and Reagan Democrats are all atheist Libertarians who aren’t into the whole “morals and values” thing?
Not buying it.
The truth is it’s unfortunately as simple as those EVIL NEOCON TALKING HEAD PARTISANS are saying:
The Republicans lost because they for 12 solid years have completely bailed on BOTH Libertarian AND Christian values.
Limited-government, and fiscal discipline, and morality issues are not dividing issues within the Republican party; they are indeed the uniting ones (and that’s why the author lumps them together again, betraying that he believes in neither)
(Actually Mr. Dionne deftly misses the point that two of the three issues that he mentions regarding Mr. Levin (health care portability and school choice) are actually limited-government concepts—but details.)
Simply put, there is nothing moral or ethical or Christian about squandering taxpayer money on earmarks, allowing moral bankruptcy and corruption to define the Congress (Cunningham, Foley, etc.), and being horrible stewards of our economy. Neither “free-marketers” nor “Christian Conservatives” appreciated any of this, and they either stayed home, or decided to throw the bums out. Meanwhile, the Democratic party jumped on an unpopular war, a raging deficit, and the aforementioned corruption, and drove voters to the polls to throw the bums out.