There has been much talk about the implosion of the Democratic Party and its lack of sane leadership in recent years, and it seems to be coming to fruition. As Democrats continue to try to sell socialism to conservative buyers, they have been reduced to a loud minority with little real power. Only power enough to annoy, and annoy they have.
But their implosion may hurt conservatives the most. Because conservatism is strongest in a climate of political gridlock and the free debate of ideas, Republican conservatism is hurt by not having a legitimate debate partner and having the luxury to pass most legislation they want. Which would be great if tax cuts and Social Security reform were the only priorities for Republicans. But “big government conservatism” seems to be a mainstay, with prescription drug and education spending out of control. This appeasement to the “middle” is the very triangulation conservatives resented Clinton for pulling off with just enough votes to get him elected in two three-way races.
So here is the opportunity for Democrats: give conservative voters a legitimate choice at the ballot box. Become libertarians in spirit, keeping your social liberalism, but offering a serious challenge to Republicans when it comes to government spending. Reclaim your namesake by advocating democracy at the local level, try arguing for limited government, and make socially liberal arguments not on moral grounds, but on grounds concerning the size of government. Make “Pro-choice” about freedom from government more than granting the judiciary the power to make life and death decisions.
Another winner of an issue might be immigration. To win over conservatives who don’t believe in “big government conservatism,” set the standard on strict immigration standards by simply enforcing the laws already on the books. I think conservatives would actually welcome this and given that 99% of the fastest growing counties voted “R” in 2004, it appears demographics are pointing towards a conservative majority in America for a long time. Couple this with the Wall Street Journal’s ironic “Roe Effect” and it’s easy to see the possibility for a serious reformation in the works.
I don’t doubt that I’m dreaming, mainly because it seems that it is no longer possible to be a party of ideas without immediately finding a way to fund them. So “big government conservatism” has been born and true conservatives should feel at least a little duped. And while Democrats have themselves to blame for their powerlessness in DC, conservative voters rightly should cringe when any one party controls all major branches of the federal government. We had a balanced budget in the Clinton years because stubborn Republicans refused to pass Clinton’s socialized programs (and a phony economy). Now we’ve lost that gridlock, and the debate has turned personal, spiteful, and even boring.
Good foreign policy is still monopolized by Republicans, which seems to lock in wins for another several elections. I can’t even imagine as many in France and Denmark are chanting anti-Bush slogans with the Islamic violence they are experiencing. And if border crossing terrorists begin suicide bombings in US, patience will quickly disappear among moderates unsure of what the reaction should be to radical Islam.
But on the domestic front, should conservatives be saying “Hillary in ’08?”