SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
In America today, we have political figures who call themselves Conservatives, but whose notions of what constitutes conservatism seem drawn from certain political movements in Europe between the wars. They think, for instance, that balanced budgets are a thing of the past and that deficit spending is the fashion of the day. They believe in big government that grows in size every year and becomes more intrusive into the lives of citizens as every day passes. Among what Thomas Jefferson called the “essential pillars of our Government,” the new “conservatives” don’t feel that any are essential, indeed, they tend to think of all of the “pillars” are quaint and obsolete.
Indeed, they have already suspended one of Jefferson’s “pillars,” habeas corpus and they’re busy working on the others. And in the area of foreign affairs, the new “conservatives” have never seen a war they didn’t want to fight, nor have they ever seen a war they would trust the uniformed professionals of the armed services to manage. This is balanced by the fact that none of them ever served in the armed forces, because they had better things to do. But then again, they know exactly how to conduct a war and they don’t need to be bothered by the advice of the professional military. So much for the new “conservatives,” who, as David Brooks readily acknowledges, have a “more authoritarian orientation.” Indeed. On the other hand, America still has a supply of the genuine article, and some of them have been outspoken about the usurpation of the label. Charlie Savage and the Boston Globe report:
A new political group recently asked Mitt Romney to promise not to wiretap Americans without a judge’s approval or to imprison US citizens without a trial as “enemy combatants.” When Romney declined to sign their pledge, the group denounced him as “unfit to serve as president.” Such rhetoric might be expected from liberal activists. But these critics, who call their organization American Freedom Agenda, are hardly leftists. They represent what they insist is a growing group of disaffected conservatives who are demanding that the Republican Party return to its traditional mistrust of concentrated government power.
“Mitt Romney’s ignorance of the Constitution’s checks and balances and protections against government abuses would have alarmed the Founding Fathers and their conservative philosophy,” said Bruce Fein, one of the group’s co founders and a Reagan administration attorney, in a press release last month attacking Romney for not signing the pledge. The American Freedom Agenda, which intends to put all candidates in both parties to the same test, is aiming to revive a strand of conservatism that they say has been drowned out since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The conservative principle of limited government, they say, means not just cutting the budget, but imposing checks and balances on those who wield power.
“Conservatives have to go back to the basics,” said co founder Richard Viguerie , a veteran direct-mail strategist and author of Conservatives Betrayed: How the Republican Party Hijacked the Conservative Cause. “We have to go back and re launch the conservative movement. And for traditional conservatives, it’s part of our nature to believe in the separation of powers.”
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Number of countries in which a citizen can be penalized for not voting:
The earth had become twice as dusty during the past century.
A man sued Pennsylvania state police who detained him for 29 days when they mistook his homemade soap for cocaine.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”