STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Compassionate Conservatism Must 'Die a Violent Death'
By - May 27, 2009

If the Republican Party has any chance of regaining its leading position, it must put to "death" George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism," says top talker Glenn Beck. Beck, a rising ratings star at Fox News and one the nation's leading talk hosts, has earned his popularity taking on some of the most cherished shibboleths of the Republican establishment. During a Fox News interview with top radio talker Rush Limbaugh this past Thursday, Beck used the occasion to slam Bush's policies as inherently detrimental to core Republican principles. Beck asked Limbaugh: "Rush, will you – help me out on this, because you always get thrown under the bus, that – well, you know, where were you when George Bush was spending, et cetera, et cetera. Address – because I – I have to tell you, the Republican Party doesn't get it. You just said, echoed again what I was saying about the progressive Republicans. George Bush, this compassionate conservative movement has got to die a violent death." – NewsMax

Dominant Social Theme: Time to fix the party.

Free-Market Analysis: We've been waiting to see how the Republican party is going to fix itself in America. Despite electoral losses, there are far more constituents for American republicanism in our opinion than for any other political persuasion. Most Americans in our opinion want lower taxes, less regulation, a less proactive federal government, fewer wars, etc. The trouble is that the party that is supposed to stand for these issues did not provide what it promised. Here is a summary, from the article excerpted above, of the kind of spending that took place under former President George W. Bush:

President George W. Bush was the largest social spender in history, according to a recent report by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. In his first term Bush increased discretionary spending 19 percent. During Bush's second term federal spending increased 49 percent. The Mercatus Center said Bush's spending made President Bill Clinton's administration look conservative. The Center noted: "Adjusted for inflation, in eight years, President Clinton increased the federal budget by 11 percent. In eight years, President Bush increased it by a whopping 104 percent." – NewsMax

The argument is made that Bush had no choice when it came to federal spending because of the aftermath of 9/11. But, in fact, the Mercatus report points out that even pro-military presidents such as Ronald Reagan reduced non-defense spending when adding to the budget elsewhere. And in Reagan's case various reductions were significant. Here's an excerpt from the report itself:

Some also argue that much of the increase in nondefense spending stemmed from increases in homeland security spending. Whether this is true, the overall rapid rise of discretionary spending indicates that, here too, the administration and Congress made no trade-offs in the budget. If the administration and Congress wanted more security spending and wanted to be fiscally responsible, they should have found savings elsewhere in the budget. In summary, only a part of recent spending increases are related to 9/11. Much of the increase stems from new domestic spending initiatives on the parts of the administration and Congress, such as expansions in the Department of Education.

Because spending – and regulations – rose so much during the Bush years, the Republicans have had to nearly repudiate the party brand itself, given the lingering disillusion of party supporters. Voters simply have not been turning out to support Republicans, and this is a major issue. Many of the most prominent spokespeople for what amounts to the Bush-brand of republicanism – such as radio talk show star Rush Limbaugh – were fairly quiet while spending increased dramatically. Now these same commentators, and a number of prominent congressional Republicans have been emphatic about casting themselves as "Conservatives."

The ideology of Conservative Republicans includes Christian spirituality, low taxes, low federal spending, low regulation and a strong national defense and intelligence community. The other major strand of the Republican party is the Libertarian one. This group, represented by politicians such as Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex) has an agenda that includes low taxes, low federal spending, low regulation and a large reduction in national defense and Homeland defense spending.

The problem for Republicans, currently, is twofold. The first and perhaps most important issue is that party leaders must find a way to integrate Libertarian and Conservative Republicanism. Currently the Conservative wing of the Republican party has co-opted many, if not most, of the talking points of Libertarian Republicans, but when one looks more closely, there is little or no formal Libertarian integration. A situation has arisen then in which Libertarian Republicans have seen parts of their agenda co-opted by Conservative Republicans without commensurate political recognition.

The second problem faced by the mainstream Conservative wing of the Republican party is that many of its most prominent spokespeople and political leaders have not explicitly renounced the Bushian "compassionate conservatism" that resulted, ultimately, in extraordinary growth of the federal government. The radio interview this past week that Fox TV commentator Glenn Beck conducted with commentator Rush Limbaugh is interesting because it seemingly encapsulates the larger dilemma of the Republican party. Here is a further excerpt from the NewsMax article, describing it:

Beck asked Limbaugh: "Rush, will you – help me out on this, because you always get thrown under the bus, that – well, you know, where were you when George Bush was spending, et cetera, et cetera. Address – because I – I have to tell you, the Republican Party doesn't get it. You just said, echoed again what I was saying about the progressive Republicans. George Bush, this compassionate conservative movement has got to die a violent death." … Limbaugh responded: "Yes, Glenn, let me tell you something. I don't – personally, I don't mind people asking me that question, 'Where were you with all the spending?' I remember – I don't want to mention any names – I was getting phone calls from people in the White House angry because I was opposed to every attempt they made to amnesty. I was opposed to the Medicare expansion. … and they have found a way and called me mad as he can be. 'What do you mean this is good – good in the private sector?' I said, 'No, it's an entitlement and Republicans don't do that.' … but the elected Republicans – here's the problem with it – when you're a Republican and your president is a Republican, you have to go along with it. If you break from him, then you got party disunity and so forth."

This is an unusually incoherent answer. But it shows clearly that Limbaugh and others were under extraordinary political pressure not to criticize the administration during its spendthrift years. The silence of Conservatives is a formidable challenge when it comes to rebuilding. Conservative Republicans seemingly remain tied to the Bush administration in terms of rhetoric and tacit support. Meanwhile, a good deal of growth and vibrancy within the party lies with the Libertarian Republicans – such as Beck (these days, apparently) who have been alienated by the support of the Conservative wing for the former administration. The future of American politics itself will be influenced a good deal by whether or not there can be a significant and lasting merger between these two competing Republican formulations.

Along with others, we are not sure a lasting merger can take place. Libertarian Republicans remain suspicious of the corporatism and militarism of Conservative Republicanism. Additionally, the more radical elements of Libertarian Republicanism are resolutely Jeffersonian. Not only do these individuals want a much-reduced federal government, they also wish for a radical reconfiguration of fiscal and monetary policy. This includes a radical reduction – even removal – of the Federal Reserve itself.

After Thoughts

The Republican party may be a big tent (one that includes Democratic-Republicans as well – but that is a story for another day), but it remains to be seen how the two separate ideologies can be reconciled. If they cannot be – and quickly – then the Obama administration's high-tax, high-spend agenda will have even less formal political opposition. The result is that the current trends will be exacerbated. Increased inflation leading likely to very high interest rates and a deepening of the ongoing recession/depression remain in the offing. Precious metals will benefit greatly from this scenario, but certainly not the American people, nor their living standards.

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