December 22, 2004 [LINK]

Is conservatism unpopular?

In his typically incisive yet blunt fashion, Andrew Sullivan raises serious doubts about whether Bush can accomplish much in his second term, and indeed whether Bush is truly serving the interests of conservative philosophy.

[C]onservatism, understood loosely as an "ideology of self-reliance," has failed to make serious inroads since the mid-'90s. It's still nowhere near a popular majority. This is why conservative politicians are often forced to use deception to advance conservative policy proposals.
Predictably, the Bush administration is contemplating a series of half-assed "reforms" that are likely to make matters worse. In doing so, the administration will yet again discredit the "ideology of self-reliance." One wonders if Bush is a sleeper agent for the Socialist International.

I think he's overstating the case, no doubt bitter toward Bush for cozying up too much with social conservatives, but I too have such worries that the Bush-Rove team is too focused on winning elections to adopt a serious, comprehensive economic conservative agenda. If he fails to "spend his political capital" and take on the tough issues, this precious moment of opportunity will end up wasted. In that case, and the Republicans will be right back to where they started, probably splitting into recriminating factions much as the Democrats are doing. It is critical for the Republicans to realize that at least half of the American population still takes for granted the Federal entitlements spawned by the New Deal era. For many folks, unfortunately, talk about "freedom" and "personal responsibility" is nothing more than talk. They are the ones susceptible to the lure of another Clinton presidency (!) if the Bush does not make a much more serious attempt to explain the ramifications of conservative policy, and to persuade the comfortable, "ultra-entitled" middle class of the need for radical reform. As Rush Limbaugh said on his show today, the battle for Social Security reform is just the beginning.