David Brooks penned an opinion piece for the New York Times arguing that the trouble Republicans and the Romney campaign have relating to everyday Americans is that, within the Republican Party, traditional conservatism has been all but forgotten, and economic conservatism has been ascendant. I think this argument is flawed – current Republican policy is hardly radically free-market, and Mr. Brooks ignores the corrosive effect neoconservative ideology has had on the GOP. I would argue that it has not been the ascendency of the economic conservatives but the replacement of the traditional conservatives with neoconservatives.
While the rhetoric of the current generation of GOP leaders occasionally dips into the realm of true laissez-faire belief, current Republican policy is merely a tame form of the progressives’ economic policy. They don’t want to restrict the Federal Reserve to a price-stability role, they just want to see what it is doing when engaging in monetary acrobatics. They don’t even want to do away with the social programs that help the poor – just limit the rate of growth of spending on them. These are the ‘cuts’ to ‘absurdly low levels’ that Mr. Brooks decries. The much-maligned Ryan plan does not actually cut spending, merely its rate of increase. And yet we have so deeply bought into the big-government economic philosophy that the national conversation often revolves around the so-called slashing of spending – we view a decline in the rate of increase as brutally austere cuts. No, if there is more of an emphasis on the ‘adventures’ than on building the ‘secure base’ it is because the politics of our day trend toward crushing those adventures in the name of a government-contracted and inefficiently-built base – one ever expanding into the realm of church and family, no less.
David Brooks spoke of a change in conservatism since Reagan, one that threw his alleged helpful tension between traditional and economic conservatives out of whack. This change was not the decline of traditional conservatism but the rise of neoconservatism – which is not really conservatism at all, but the jingoistic mirror image of progressivism. The neoconservatives support spending massive and unnecessary amounts of money on the military, engaging in useless foreign wars, and the erosion of individual rights and the expansion of government via state security apparatuses.
The neoconservative influence in the GOP has put lie to the core beliefs that the Republicans stand for. We believe in fiscal responsibility, except when considering military spending – then the sky is the limit. We believe in individual rights and due process – unless it’s a ‘terrorist’ – then it’s torture, indefinite detention, and drone assassinations of US citizens. We don’t buy the argument that cutting government spending will cost jobs – until it’s military spending on the chopping block. We believe that life is sacred, and should be protected in the womb and guarded by gun rights and strict enforcement of laws, yet we voice little objection to drone campaigns that slaughter innocent and guilty alike. Neoconservatism is a cancer that must be cut from the Republican Party before that party can once again present a clear, consistent, and moral message in opposition to the Democrats.