Sunday, October 26, 2008

Progressive Conservative

In one of my posts about pragmatic, effective government, I referred to myself as a "fiscal conservative," and a reader posted a criticism implying that I couldn't possibly understand what conservatism means if I talked about "effective use of government." Yet, this week one of my favorite conservative op-ed columnists David Brooks argued exactly the same position as he pointed out the sadness of a lost campaign by John McCain. I couldn't agree more with Brooks' notion of "Burkean conservatism," a description I have used numerous times recently in discussions with conservatives on blogs. Burke insightfully noted, "the revenue of the state is the state," clearly accepting that government has certain responsibilities which must be funded effectively. A conservatism in the vein of Hamilton or Lincoln or TR is precisely what has made the United States the great nation it is. Obviously, Ronald Reagan was a man of conservative principles, but he also oversaw one of the government's largest expansions, and he raised taxes numerous times when it was the rational approach.

However, John McCain's rigid adherence to a conservatism that was failing to meet the needs of electorate has, instead, driven the moderate, unaffiliated voters to a man whose philosophy and voting record appears to be truly liberal. I will note, however, that I believe Obama to be a far more pragmatic politician than a "government-agenda-driven liberal." There is much in his demeanor and his record that implies he will govern in the Reagan mode of negotiating
and conceding the opposing view while making decisions he truly believes to be in the best interest of all Americans. One of these will be a health care system that is overseen, but not administered, by the government. Another is a economic policy driven by Volcker- and Rubin-esque practicality, not simple ideology.

As an unaffiliated voter who regularly splits his votes between the two parties, I'm firmly in support of Brooks' "progressive conservatism," and I truly hope it becomes the New Deal of the 21st century. When asked about my philosophy, I often note I am fiscally conservative but socially conscious. Ultimately, I simply feel I am pragmatic, and I hope the next Congress and the next President are as well.

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