Conservatism reframed?

Over at the New York Times, columnist David Brooks talks about the rise of center-right political movements, especially in Britain, where the Conservative Party looks like it is on course to take back power after the longest-ever run of Labour Party rule.

Brooks uses the British Conservative example of how the new political right parties are moving beyond the Thatcher/Reagan conservative models, adapting the old emphasis on individualism and free markets with a more progressive outlook that still values these bedrock conservative principles, but looks to the next destination along the way, wanting


(V)oters to think of the Tories as the party of society while Labor is the party of the state. They want the country to see the Tories as the party of decentralized organic networks and the Laborites as the party of top-down mechanistic control.

As such, the Conservative Party has spent a lot of time thinking about how government should connect with citizens. Basically, everything should be smaller, decentralized and interactive. They want a greater variety of schools, with local and parental control. They want to reverse the trend toward big central hospitals. Health care, Cameron says, is as much about regular long-term care as major surgery, and patients should have the power to construct relationships with caretakers, pharmacists and local facilities.

Cameron also believes government should help social entrepreneurs scale up their activities without burdening them with excessive oversight.

This focus means that Conservatives talk not only about war and G.D.P., but also the softer stuff. There’s been more emphasis on environmental issues, civility, assimilation and the moral climate. Cameron has spent an enormous amount of time talking about marriage, families and children.


While some of this, on the surface, may look a little unrecognizable to conservatives, beneath you find individual choice, localized government, free markets, and safe and stable communities, but without the social zealotry and economic Darwinism that often makes voters flinch at the idea of supporting conservative candidates.

If the GOP wants to challenge the soft paternalism offered by the Democrats, the British conservative experience may well offer points worth considering. As polling suggests voters are increasingly turned off by the "tough party for tough times" image that is often associated with contemporary American conservatives, a softer and more nuanced message may help lure them back into the GOP column before they become, as voters did for a half-century following the Great Depression, lost to the Democrats for two more generations.

4 Response to "Conservatism reframed?"

  1. still in stormy saint louis moye 14/5/08 10:23
    I was in London and a few other cities in Great Britain a few months ago and what I seen was far worse than here. Their Immigration is what will be the down fall of the British Empire and maybe the rest of Europe especially France, Denmark also. They will never intergrate into the society not the Middle Eastern group nor the Indian group. Take a walk down most London streets and you could be in Cairo or Calcutta and it would look the same. Now I am not against people from other places but I am for some sort of way to make sure we are all on the same page just different sentence.
  2. west_rhino 15/5/08 08:26
    Better re-framed than continously de-famed as it is by the left and its fellow travellers of the press...
  3. Goldwater 16/5/08 00:12
    Interesting post Earl. I see the problem as Big Government Republicans ran DC, now they work with Big Government Democrats to run DC. People don't see the difference, because, frankly, there's not much once they are in office in DC.
  4. Anonymous 16/5/08 09:01
    randy scott insists that he was a conservative who was framed.

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