Peter Wehner: ‘Conservatives in name only’

Commonsense Conservative GOP elephantBy Lynn R. Mitchell

An op-ed in the New York Times scratches its head at the battle within the Republican Party. Peter Wehner,  a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who served in the last three Republican administrations, questions in his piece those Republican representatives who turned on House Speaker John Boehner after his clear-cut leadership led the party to a victory unseen since the 1920s (see Conservatives In Name Only):

Last week the Republican Party’s divisions were on display, when Speaker of the House John A. Boehner — who helped his party gain its largest majority since the Truman administration — faced an uprising. The revolt was led by conservatives against a man whose voting record is unquestionably conservative. It was another indication that the tension on the right these days is not about policy or ideology but tone and temperament.

Think about that. The largest Republican majority in the House of Representatives since the Great Depression. He continues:

What informs these demands is an apocalyptic view of American life during the Obama era. America is “very much like Nazi Germany,” in the words of Ben Carson, a Tea Party favorite. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said we had a couple of years to turn this country around or “we go off the cliff to oblivion.” Mark Levin, a popular radio talk show host, warned that Republicans were “endorsing tyranny” if they didn’t support shutting down the government in 2013.

The sky is always falling to the Glenn Becks and Mark Levins. But Mr. Wehner writes:

Those of us who are conservative and deeply concerned about the damage inflicted on the country by the president but don’t share this doom-laden view are labeled by some on the right as cowardly and unprincipled. Which raises a significant political and philosophical issue: Is there a conservative disposition? The answer, I think, is that there is, and what I’ve just described is not it. [emphasis added]

What often masquerades as conservatism these days is really populism. There is room for populism within conservatism, but it should not define conservatism. In fact, it is often in conflict with it.

Mr. Wehner contends that conservatives are an optimistic lot who truly believe in Reagan’s shining city on the hill. He notes:

In a marvelous 1976 essay, the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb contended that the key word to describe the conservative disposition was “enjoyment.” Unlike those who are “always lusting after something that is not,” the conservative tends to find delight in the achievements and blessings we have. [emphasis added]

It is difficult to understand the battlefield that makes up today’s Republican Party. Many who were in leadership and long-time volunteers had their conservative credentials questioned and were expelled for not sitting quietly and comfortably in the echo chamber. Mr. Wehner concludes:

Here’s a good rule of thumb for politics: The stronger one’s philosophical convictions are, the more important temperamental moderation is. Magnanimity, winsomeness and grace aren’t antithetical to conservatism. They are an essential part of it.

Brings to mind some right-of-center social media abusers and bloggers who practice none of the above and, in the process, relegate themselves to the irrelevant ranks of screeching radicals. Read the entire op-ed here.

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