Tuesday, October 28, 2008

David Brooks is a Tory

The scary thing is, as David Brooks describes it, his ideal of a socially moderate and economically progressive technocracy party is a major improvement over the bankrupt, resentful mass mania that American conservatism has degenerated into.
It is for using limited but energetic government to enhance social mobility. This tendency began with Alexander Hamilton, who created a vibrant national economy so more people could rise and succeed. It matured with Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War Republicans, who created the Land Grant College Act and the Homestead Act to give people the tools to pursue their ambitions. It continued with Theodore Roosevelt, who busted the trusts to give more Americans a square deal.

Members of this tradition have one foot in the conservatism of Edmund Burke. They understand how little we know or can know and how much we should rely on tradition, prudence and habit. They have an awareness of sin, of the importance of traditional virtues and stable institutions. They understand that we are not free-floating individuals but are embedded in thick social organisms.

But members of this tradition also have a foot in the landscape of America, and share its optimism and its Lincolnian faith in personal transformation. Hamilton didn’t seek wealth for its own sake, but as a way to enhance the country’s greatness and serve the unique cause America represents in the world.

Members of this tradition are Americanized Burkeans, or to put it another way, progressive conservatives.

In practice either the progressiveness or the conservatism get short shrift as Canadians could attest. But note that in Canadian terms, Brooks is describing the kind of red Tory social moderation of a Joe Clark and the macroeconomic industrial ambition of a Liberal, C.D. Howe.

It's probably this or become nothing but a far right regional rump party reduced to ever more symbolic votes in the deep south like Reform languishing in Alberta in the 90's. And isn't it interesting that a major figure in the American conservative movement thinks that their only alternative is towards the Canadian style of conservatism from twenty years ago, before the red neck Calgary School prairie zealots with their wallet photos of Reagan, well thumbed copies of Atlas Shrugged and smug religious certainty replaced it.

A style of American conservatism that is about to deliver the whole movement in the U.S. to a certain fabled ash bin.

I submit that implacable electoral math means that Stephen Harper will soon be engineering another lurch towards the center within the Conservatives. And that his successor for leadership will be someone urban who trumpets moderation as his guiding principal.


Mike said...

To be honest, Harper is a urban as it gets so don't believe the mythos - he was born and raised in Toronto.

Good post.

Cliff said...

Yeah but he's leading a party that can't win a seat in any city outside of Alberta. Urban is as much a set of attitudes and philosophies as a location.

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