Saturday, November 17, 2007

What Goldwater can teach us

Paul Krugman's new book, The Conscience of a Liberal, is designed to send a message to the liberal /progressive base of the democratic party. Modeled as a 21st century Leftist version of Goldwater's treatsie, Krugman pushes Democrats to, well, have a conscience. A political one that is. The Democratic party needs to be principled and dedicated to a transformative public policy agenda; a plan that isn't predicated on the fear of being lambasted as big government liberals. Instead Democrats should be proud of the paradigm Johnson's Great Society programs established, and they should advocate for a universal style of government that does not allow for anyone to slip through the cracks. Krugman's book not only presents a vital new political strategy, but it demonstrates the timeless signficance of Goldwater's 1964 work. Ultimately though, I think Krugman fails to highlight what was so significant about Goldwater's book and presidential campaign. Goldwater's presidential campaign undoubtedly paved the way for the rise of the conservative republican base and the Reagan presidential victory 16 years later. But it wasn't Goldwater's book that accomplished this. The book along is merely a theoretical project. It was Goldwater's willingness to stand by the conservative imperatives he outlined in The Conscience of a Conservative, even when every political calculation imaginable would have instructed him to do otherwise, that truly paved the way for Reagen and then the Bush dynasty. Quite frankly, Goldwater had the balls to stand by his principles and lose. And lose quite convincingly he did. But his loss by some 16 million votes sent a very powerful message to the American electorate. It was a much more powerful message than any book could have ever sent alone. The Republican Party, moreover the conservatives of the Republican Party, have the strength, perseverance, and moral foundation to lead America. I can only imagine what would happen if the Democratic Party did the same. If they ran someone at the head of their ticket who cared first about his or her principles, and second about winning.

- Max Rose

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