Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Radical Conservatives and Conservative Liberals

E.J. Dionne joins Andrew Sullivan in proclaiming that the real conservative in this election is President Obama:
For the first time since Barry Goldwater made the effort in 1964, the Republican Party is taking a run at overturning the consensus that has governed U.S. political life since the Progressive era.

Obama is defending a tradition that sees government as an essential actor in the nation’s economy, a guarantor of fair rules of competition, a countervailing force against excessive private power, a check on the inequalities that capitalism can produce, and an instrument that can open opportunity for those born without great advantages.

Today’s Republicans cast the federal government as an oppressive force, a drag on the economy and an enemy of private initiative. Texas Gov. Rick Perry continues to promise, as he did last week during a campaign stop in Davenport, Iowa, to be a president who would make “Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as he can make it.” That far-reaching word “inconsequential” implies a lot more than trims in budgets or taxes.

As the legacy of the Depression and World War II fades, we are seeing an ever-growing number of the haves proclaiming that their riches are nothing but simple justice, and that any attempt to make our society more fair is theft. Theirs is a radical stand, taken in opposition to the whole post-World War II world. I doubt they will have much success. But American voters should take note that this election is a referendum, not on the economy, but on fundamental questions about the way our society is organized.

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