Jeffrey Hart, a former editor of National Review, and former speechwriter for both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, writes that the conservative movement that backed George W. Bush “is now dead.” He urges the Republican Party to move away from “Bushism,” and Reaganism and begin to model the Party to align with the thinking and actions of Dwight Eisenhower.
Excerpts from his article The GOP Must Change or Die:
- In a recent poll, 98 percent of historians rated George W. Bush the worst president in American history. Bushism was a disaster, and the conservative movement that backed him in everything is now dead.
- The conservative movement has stuck to George W. Bush like a limpet on all his discredited policies: Iraq, banning abortion, the block on stem cell research, income tax cuts for the wealthy, attaching Social Security to the Stock Market (!), repatriating 12 million illegal immigrants instead of offering them a road to citizenship (“amnesty”). All of these have been losers.
- The model for the revival of the Republican party should be the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower. It is no good conservatives trying to revive Ronald Reagan, for whom I used to write speeches. Historians may rate Reagan as a near-great president. But our problems now are different from the ones he addressed. And “supply-side economics” is now widely recognized as nonsense.
- First, the Republican party must distance itself from evangelicalism as the policy preferences of evangelicals have only minority support.
- Second, science today, empirically based, has great authority because of its manifold achievements, from the interior of the molecule and the human cell to the age of the universe (13.7 billion years). Therefore science also has cultural authority. No administration has been so comprehensively hostile to science as the Bush administration. It has cut funding for research and development, manipulated data on global warming, and exaggerated uncertainties about climate change so that millions of Americans think global warming and its causes are matters of opinion.
- Third, both Bushism and movement conservatism forgot the founder of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, who understood abstract (republican) theory as the basis for revolution in France, but also understood historical force of social change.
- Fourth, Burke and Leo Strauss are the indispensable conservative political philosophers and should guide the leaders of any form of modern conservatism. But the immediate paradigm for the revival of the Republican party should be the successful presidency of Dwight Eisenhower.
- In 1953 Eisenhower ended the Korean war with a nuclear threat against Beijing, built the nuclear-powered navy and brought forward the unstoppable Polaris missile, initiated the U-2 spy-plane flights, began to build the interstate highway system, and also balanced the budget three times. He certainly would not have trapped an American army in Mesopotamia. He was practical, solid, and surely a near-great president.
- Movement conservatism, RIP. The common sense Republican party will rise again. It must. Or it will go the way of the Federalists and the Whigs.