Tuesday, May 31, 2005

"Revolutionary Conservative" is a Contradiction in Terms

Wall Street Journal columnist Brendan Miniter today takes on "The McCain Myth: the moderation that makes him a Senate powerhouse will keep him out of the White House."

Miniter recounts a brief history of the Republican Party since Gerald Ford lost his bid for re-election in 1976, attributing nearly every ballot-box victory to the conservative wing rather than the moderate "establishment" wing (including the first President Bush):

No one represents the changing of the guard [in the Republican Party] better than George W. Bush himself, who is now pushing revolutionary conservative ideas in every arena from defense to Social Security to tax reform. Having come this far, what Mr. McCain and the other Republican Senate "moderates" in last week's compromise would have the party do is give up on the very principles that is winning elections.
And, evidently, give up on the very principles of grammar that President Bush so valiantly upholds. (Hey, I already told you I'm a grammar freak, but really, "the very principles that is winning elections"??)

More to the point, "revolutionary conservative" is an outright contradiction in terms. Conservative means traditionalist, distrustful of government activism, opposed to sudden change in the established order. Revolutionary means precisely the opposite.

George W. Bush and his ideas certainly are revolutionary, but they are not at all conservative. Senator McCain, on the other hand, is a true conservative. He fought to maintain the tradition of comity in the Senate, and has consistently opposed "sudden change in the established order."

Revolutions in general, and most especially the American Revolution, are inescapably liberal actions. Each and every one of our Founding Fathers was a liberal. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Hancock, and all the rest. They were opposed by the Tories — conservatives who wanted to remain British.