COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM….Today in the LA Times, Ron Brownstein writes on the same theme that I did last night: even if George Bush manages to squeak out a victory tomorrow, it will represent not a resurgence of movement conservatism, but its last gasp:
“If he wins, he will have squeezed every ounce that he could have gotten out of his base,” said Tony Fabrizio, the pollster for GOP nominee Bob Dole in 1996.
Any win in this environment would count as a political achievement. But a victory based primarily on further consolidating conservatives (especially religiously observant social conservatives) would be very different from what Bush initially set out to accomplish.
“Karl Rove used to talk about William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt,” said Yale University political scientist Stephen Skowronek. “These were presidents who expanded the party base. I think that was the aspiration [for Bush]. They saw compassionate conservatism as the ideology of a governing party that was going to take its base and expand it. And I think that has failed.”
I think it’s worse than that, since Bush is going to lose tomorrow, not win narrowly. In the end, even with the cresting wave of the war on terror helping them along, there still isn’t a majority of Americans willing to buy into the apocalyptic, siege-mentality conservatism of Bush, Karl Rove, and Tom DeLay. And just as Bill Clinton reinvented the Democratic party by moving it toward the center and shaving off the rough edges, Republicans are going to realize that they have to do the same. Compassionate conservatism ? real compassionate conservatism ? really is the future of the Republican party.