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The Conservative Crisis

As the white flag rises above Republican redoubts, offering a surrender on taxes, the mind goes back to what seemed a worse time for conservatives: December 1964.

Barry Goldwater had suffered a defeat not seen since Alf Landon. Republicans held less than one-third of the House and Senate and only 17 governorships. The Warren Court was remaking America.

In the arts, academic and entertainment communities, and national press corps, conservatives were rarely seen or heard. It was Liberalism’s Hour, with America awash in misty memories of Camelot and great expectations of the Great Society to come in 1965.

That year, however, saw escalation in Vietnam, campus protests, and civil disobedience against the war. That August, there exploded the worst race riot in memory in the Watts section of Los Angeles, with arson, looting, the beating of whites, and sniper attacks on cops and firemen.

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A year after LBJ’s triumph, black militants and white radicals were savaging the Liberal Establishment from the left, while Gov. George Wallace had come north in 1964 to win a third of the vote in the major Democratic primaries with an assault from the populist right.

Below the surface, the Democratic Party was disintegrating on ethnic, cultural and political lines. Law and order and Vietnam were the issues. Richard Nixon would see the opening and seize the opportunity to dismantle FDR’s coalition and cobble together his New Majority.

Today, the GOP strength in the House, Senate and governorships is far greater than anything Republicans had in the 1960s. The difference is that, then, we could visualize a new majority of centrist Republicans, Goldwater conservatives, Northern Catholic ethnics and Southern Protestant Democrats.

And we could see the issues that might bring them into the tent: a new Supreme Court, law and order, peace with honor in Vietnam.

When the liberal establishment collapsed during the 1960s, unable to end the war in Vietnam or the war in the streets, national leadership passed to the party of Nixon and Ronald Reagan. From 1968 to 1988, the GOP won five of six presidential elections, two of them in 49-state landslides.

The crisis of the GOP today is demographic, cultural and political.

Demographically, people of color are nearing 40 percent of the U.S. population and 30 percent of the electorate. These folks–85 to 90 percent of all immigrants, legal and illegal–are growing in number. And in 2012, people of color voted for Obama 4 to 1.

The GOP trump card–we are the party of Reagan, who led us to victory in the Cold War–ceased to work 20 years ago. Then, George H.W. Bush, a war hero who had presided over the fall of the Berlin Wall and dissolution of the Soviet Empire, the victor of Desert Storm, won 38 percent of the vote against a draft-evader named Bill Clinton.

Culturally, the causes of the 1960s’ revolutions–no-fault divorce, legalized drugs, “reproductive rights,” teenage access to birth control, gay rights and gay marriage–have either been embraced or become acceptable to most of America’s young.

As a result of the sexual revolution promoted by the counterculture of the 1960s, the dominant culture today, 40 percent of all births in the United States are now to single moms.

With no husband, these women look to government to help feed, house, educate, medicate and provide income support for themselves and their children. For sustenance and the survival of their families, they depend on that same Big Government that Republicans denounce at their rallies.

As to the GOP’s strongest appeal–we are the party that will cut taxes–half the country does not pay income taxes, and the GOP is about to surrender to Obama even on the tax front.

Republicans stand for bringing entitlements under control. But the primary beneficiaries of the big entitlements, Social Security and Medicare, are seniors, the party’s most reliable voting bloc.

On foreign policy, the most visible Republican spokesmen are Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Both were unhappy with the withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. Both want to intervene in Syria and Iran.

What does America want? To come home and do our nation-building here in the United States.

The bedrock values of Reagan–work, family, faith–still hold an appeal for tens of millions. But the faith of our fathers is dying, the family is crumbling, and work is less desirable when the social welfare state offers a cushioned existence for life.

Conservatives need to rediscover what they wish to conserve and how, in a climate every bit as hostile as 1964–then await the moment when the country turns again to an alternative.

As it will. For our economic course is unsustainable. And our regnant elite are more arrogant than the establishment of the 1960s, though less able to satisfy the clamors of their bawling constituencies for more and more from a country that is approaching an end of its tolerance and an inevitable crash.

Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of TAC and the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? [1]” Copyright 2012 Creators.com [2].

31 Comments (Open | Close)

31 Comments To "The Conservative Crisis"

#1 Comment By scott craig On December 11, 2012 @ 2:57 am

Hello Mr. Buchanan, The republican party is a total basket case. Talk to young people and they all say they are nothing but flaming hypocrites. Our congressman (Rep.) here in Northern California constantly harps about people living of the government, closing our borders, balancing the budget, etc. The only problem with this is he is a farmer and has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in farm subsidies. He has been caught using illegal alien farm labor, and he was a full bore supporter of the neocon Bush administration. Does anyone remember the neocon mantra deficits no longer matter? He won the election by a slim margin in a red county by a population with the highest government assistance rate in California. Go figure!

#2 Comment By Uncle Vanya On December 11, 2012 @ 6:37 am

I’m not a senior, but can we stop calling medicare and social security “entitlements.” If someone paid into a program, how can it be construed as an entitlement?

If social security and medicare are “entitlements,” then so are the obscenely generous pensions we give government employees and former elected officals. If we’re worried about waste, let’s start cutting those first.

#3 Comment By Cliff On December 11, 2012 @ 6:53 am

The headline is “The Conservative Crisis” but the article is all about the so-called “Republican” Party. Are the two the same? I hope not.

#4 Comment By Nathan On December 11, 2012 @ 7:28 am

Pat gets to somewhat the heart of the matter: What is a conservative, how do we define “conservative” and go forward? What he chooses to focus on is illustrative is it not? He mentions Nixon crafting a new majority. But notice, Nixon was a classic neocon, his was externally driven. Like his former boss Eisenhower, he did not eliminate one New Deal program or the more recent Great Society programs. He went after nothing of interest to liberal democrats. They saw their precious entitlement programs untouched and even expanded. This would continue under the next three GOP presidents, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II.

What they all tended to forget is that the greatest threat to the country probably wasn’t the Soviets especially given what we know now but even given what we knew then. The biggest threat were those entitlement programs that were destroying the foundation of the country and were patently unconstitutional.

But also you see “conservatives” supporting the blatantly illegal and unconstitutional behavior of Bush and Cheney with regards to how the wars were fought. How many “conservatives”, say Mark Levin, opposed the Patriot Act or NDAA or the waterboarding of KSM (which is torture pure and simple)? We had Sean devoting hours to supporting a self confessed war criminal, Allen West. Cheney who open defended his own illegal actions was a welcome guest on the show. How many of you rose up in protest to this?

Again, what really is a “conservative” any more?

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc On December 11, 2012 @ 7:37 am

Some soul seraching is a good thing. But unless, it happens amongst recognized media conservative/republican commentators and leadership that leads to a change in behavior — tis all for not.

#6 Comment By libertarian jerry On December 11, 2012 @ 8:20 am

Interesting article Pat. The Republicans and so called “Conservatives” have no one to blame but themselves for the dilemma you describe. For decades,the Republican Party,whether in or out of power,have done very little to dismantle the New Deal/Great Society programs or the means to pay for them. In fact the Republicans,by and large,have aided and abetted, the growing Welfare State with a “go along to get along” attitude. On top of the Welfare State problem,it is obvious to any unbiased observer,that the Republican Party leadership has been taken over by NeoCons who wish to encourage and build upon the growing Military/Industrial Complex World Empire that is bankrupting the Country. In the final summation,over the years Cultural Marxism and the steady growth of the Dependency Class has been used by the Democratic Party Left to take power in America. It has been used to shape policy in America. And in all that time the Republican Party has done nothing substantial to block that advance. Only rear guard actions. Only rhetoric. In the end the Republican “Conservatives” get what they deserve, to be marginalized and to lose access to the levers of power to make right the course of the American Ship of State.

#7 Comment By EliteCommInc On December 11, 2012 @ 8:48 am

I don’t measure my conservative principles against party leadership behavior. I measure their behavior against my conservative principles and practice.

That’s what enables conservatives who were much maligned for challenging the behavior during the Bush years. It did not mean that I jumped ship as so many have, even voting for their political rivals.

While it might have changed my own fortunes vastly and others may have a similar feel — we who remained, did so because our ideas of what the country ought to be, what it could be is based foundations beyond how we feel . . or fortune or misfortune may be fall us. Perhaps, I am overreaching.

#8 Comment By EliteCommInc On December 11, 2012 @ 8:55 am

A million people clamoring that a thing is true — does not make it true. A lie is still a lie regardless of the power or powerlessness of the one who yelds it.

#9 Comment By C. Besanceney, MD On December 11, 2012 @ 9:04 am

What’s unattractive about being a “Republican”?
–the ugliness of the primary debates with all but one of the candidates pandering to the far right (perceived) base and the audience reactions to answers that implied an “us versus them” nastiness–with the nation’s majority being of the “them” stripe.
–warmongering.
–usurpation of the Tea Party economic goals by the religious right’s social goals.
–hypocrisy and Bush-Cheney. If only they had really been compassionate constitutional conservatives instead of off-the-books war-on-terror statists.
–the RNC establishment, the stupidity of some of the congressional candidates and the disingenuous and incompetent Presidential campaign.
–the spiteful and wrongheaded bile of the most influential and strident right wing media pundits.

Nothing in the above list should be construed as favoring Democrats, who keep no better supporting company.
As usual, neither candidate offered honesty or logic, and the best choice was to vote for neither of the two major candidates.

#10 Comment By Mr. Patrick On December 11, 2012 @ 9:08 am

The Democrats will win for the same reason they lost in the 60s. They were then in the throes of apocalypticism without a vision for a stable, functioning country, only a vague notion of social democratic utopia informing their policy. Now the conservatives are in the throes of apocalypticism, from End Times fundamentalist madness, the natural byproduct of the late Neocon utopian hysteria, to overwrought concern for the hygiene of the American Race, to Pat’s somewhat milder alarm about a coming “crash”. The crash has happened. This is the aftermath. America doesn’t need grand visionaries to bring about a new golden age, just a passable cleanup crew to remove the debris of hubris already come to fruition.

#11 Comment By Geoff Guth On December 11, 2012 @ 9:38 am

It’s fitting that there’s a photo of Nixon on this article, because I’d suggest that he is Obama’s closest analog among past Presidents.

Nixon was the first Republican to benefit from the votes of white Southern conservatives, who are now the bedrock of the GOP. As you say, the Democratic coalition that FDR had put together was falling apart in the wake of the civil rights and feminist movements and Vietnam.

But don’t we now see a similar civil war breaking out in the GOP? How much longer can social conservatives, pro-business conservatives and military hawks hold together? The budget is tearing them apart. And the socially conservative base is waking up to the fact that they’ve been screwed by the financial elite, whose avatar was Mitt Romney. Is this not exactly the position Democrats found themselves in in ’68 and into the ’70s?

Nixon himself carried on many liberal policies. He governed as a moderate (starting the EPA, for instance) while laying the groundwork for conservatives who followed. Obama, too, has governed to a large degree as a moderate. On many issues, he’s to the right even of Reagan.

Even the Congress is similar. It was a lagging indicator of the country’s rightward swing, with Democratic majorities in the ’70s and ’80s.

The liberal majority to come won’t look like its predecessor in all the particulars, but my guess is that the GOP will have a much longer time in the wilderness than you hope.

#12 Comment By Spiritist On December 11, 2012 @ 9:51 am

The divide, at least on internet political sites (including the ideas of commenters), is no longer left/right, liberal/conservative, etc., the divide is now between those who cannot see beyond talking points and good guy vs. bad guy on the one hand and those conducting balanced analysis that seeks reasonable and economically viable solutions to (in the words of Lincoln) preserving the union and creating quality of life for the largest possible numbers of people.

#13 Comment By J Harlan On December 11, 2012 @ 10:02 am

Who exactly wants a smaller state? Certainly not the people on welfare. Count out the defence, security and law and order establishments. Public sector unions- no. The people who sell products to government, it employees and fill government contracts- no. Anyone getting subsidies- no. Politicians wanting to buy votes- never.

The principal rift is between people who say they want to pay for the large government they want now and the people who don’t care if anyone alive pays for the large government they want now. Within these two groups there is squabbling over division of spoils but neither wants a small government and neither is “conservative”. These two big government sides have picked teams and the Republicans, botching the “draft” have managed to give away the fastest growing voting blocks. Demographics rule and by this measure the Republicans are doomed at the presidential level.

#14 Comment By Uncle Vanya On December 11, 2012 @ 10:21 am

The GOP needs to start thinking about the needs of the middle class. Enough with the out-sourcing mania. Enough with the mania for believing we can have a 1st world economy based on services.

Ross Perot was right: “Free” trade has not been good for America. It has not been good for the middle class, (who wants to compete with 3rd world wages?), and, ultimately, it has not been good for the GOP. We can slam the democrats for being the party of give-aways, but did the GOP really think Reagan democrats were going to remain loyal to them as they championed the people, e.g. Bush and Romney, destroying their livelihoods?

Ironically, as we sink economically, we continue to spend more and more on the military…just like the USSR at its end.

#15 Comment By Mark in LA On December 11, 2012 @ 10:23 am

Before Reagan, when the average guy got a raise in his pay, the government usually got more of it than he did. This was because of the high tax rates then and the fact that everything was deductible including payed interest and taxes from any place whether credit cards or utilities. The average Joe did not have the ability to get involved with all the legitimate tax shelters the wealthy did. Simplifying and cutting taxes was a winning issue.

Fast forward after 30 years of Republican support for free trade, guest workers, using illegals to break unions and lower wages and the issues are different for Joe Sixpack. Continuing to cry about how lowering your taxes or how one more free trade deal is going to help you when your job pays so little that you pay more in payroll taxes than income taxes are not winning issues.

Pat most people vote on bread and butter issues. This idea of defining “what conservatism is” when your economic policies have ground the middle class down will largely be a waste of time. Start doing things that bring the jobs back and raise the pay and standard of living for the middle class and you won’t have to worry about the meaning of conservatism. You understood this when you fought against NAFTA even though when you worked for Reagan you were a self-declared free trader.

#16 Comment By Tom Blanton On December 11, 2012 @ 10:29 am

As a result of the sexual revolution promoted by the counterculture of the 1960s, the dominant culture today, 40 percent of all births in the United States are now to single moms.

Hmmm, and I thought the sexual revolution was promoted by the fifties mainstream culture of Rat Pack Hollywood swingers boozing it up with sexy pin-up girls and the introduction of birth control pills.

Perhaps Frank Sinatra was really a Marxist beatnik promoting cultural marxism and Hugh Hefner was actually a radical leftist hippie subverting our puritan culture.

I suppose limited government conservatives could expand the government just a wee bit more if it is to declare martial law to enforce crimes against an imaginary Norman Rockwell culture that never existed. Limited government conservatives have had no problem expanding the welfare/warfare state in the past.

#17 Comment By Jim P On December 11, 2012 @ 10:30 am

Flat tax, term limits, government out of bedrooms, US out of foreign countries. The list goes on and on, yet Pat highlights entitlements which another commentator correctly notes should include all the excessive government benefits paid to overpaid and underskilled federal employees (but especially those who were elected to conduct the business of the country).

In other words, if Pat and others are searching for a Republican mission around which to rally, why not tackle our bloated government with truly meaningful changes to our expense structure. Eliminate Education (as a department), reduce Defense to spending for true defense, substantially eliminate the IRS, etc. No, that does not directly address the twin burden of social security and medicare, but it would begin restore the country’s fiscal footing so that we could work through the challenges that have been coming and predicted for decades, but which our irresponsible elected officials declined to address, instead voting themselves the pork that would get them re-elected. It would send a signal to the citizens of this country that we are serious about fixing our problems.

There are plenty of ideas circulating that could begin to turn the ship. Why don’t Republicans provide that leadership?

#18 Comment By Ben, Okla. City On December 11, 2012 @ 11:55 am

I would like to see the Republicans offer a true alternative of either of these two options:

1. Tea Party: Say we are going to bring the troops home from Europe, Far East, Middle East, Central Asia, etc. and we are going to cut the Defense Dept “BIG TIME” so that it is only large enough to protect our legitimate national interests. We are going to cut LOTS of federal domestic programs that carry lots of expenses and ….here’s the important part….actually describe said cuts before the next election! Really become the party of personal freedom, meaning suspending the war on drugs and allowing people maximum personal freedom to make their own moral choices.

2. Tory Party: Remain the party that likes big government, but that emphasizes different parts of big government than the Democrats emphasize…..and here’s the important part……bring taxes and spending into balance and not practicing the now discredited “Starve the Beast” strategy. Big Defense, big business, all that good stuff that beltway Republicans love. Think Bob Dole as the tax collector for the Welfare State.

I’m a Tory at heart, so my personal preference is closer to #2. However, I could live with either version. But mostly, I want internal logical consistency, which the GOP is most certainly not providing….right now we are getting Tea Party tax policy and Tory Party spending policy….which is not sustainable.

Make a decision and take it to the voters. They might reject it, but at least you’re providing a workable alternative for the country that can legitimately compete with the Democrats.

#19 Comment By IanH On December 11, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

Republicans love to capitulate. Now they’re even trying to think up reasons to accept homosexual “marriage”.

#20 Comment By Chris 1 On December 11, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

Culturally, the causes of the 1960s’ revolutions–no-fault divorce, legalized drugs, “reproductive rights,” teenage access to birth control, gay rights and gay marriage–have either been embraced or become acceptable to most of America’s young.

True, but culturally the causes of the 1980s’ revolutions – less government regulation, legalized co-mingling of banking assets, “right-to-work” (= a lower-wage workforce), lower taxes and a more robust (and expensive) military industrial complex via outsourcing and the “professional” volunteer military – have been similarly embraced or become acceptable to most of America’s young.

The culture war was won by a non-combatant: Ayn Rand. The left fought to make Rand’s sexual immorality the norm, the right fought to make Rand’s economic immorality the norm, and both punched each other to a dead draw, leaving behind Rand’s perfectly self-centered world in which only chumps volunteer to serve, and in which a few indispensable men, Raskolnikovs all, dispense with anyone and everyone who does not accord with their own self-interest. Thus everything from abortion to offshoring jobs, from “serial monogamy” to “vulture capitalism.”

Sacrifice is no longer a value, nothing is sacred any more, and that is where the wheels have come off as both liberals and conservatives made common cause to make Ayn Rand’s bad novel become reality.

#21 Comment By Sean Scallon On December 11, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

“Conservatives need to rediscover what they wish to conserve and how, in a climate every bit as hostile as 1964–then await the moment when the country turns again to an alternative.”

Actually it’s even worse now then back then. Goldwater was beaten because he seen as crazy, cranky and irresponsible. But those bedrock values work, family, faith-were still affirmed by millions of all ideologies and parties as parties found candidates that best represented them (As Nelson Rockefeller found out harshly). Millions still believed and the politics responded to it. Even the liberal establishment of that time was not one which challenged such beliefs, that was the New Left which did so (and to a lesser extent the libertarians in the new Conservative Movement).

If such beliefs are on the wane then the politics will reflect it as well and all parties will adjust accordingly. Thus, for conservatives, there is really isn’t much to conserve in today’s culture and to try to pretend there is is silly. The fall has already taken place and until said culture runs its course or changes, you will not get back Reagan’s “Morning in America” politics.

#22 Comment By John T On December 11, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

It’s hard for a conservative to give up on a veteran institution, but I think the time has come for the grand old party to end.

It is too damaged and compromised by what it has done over the past 12 years. It doesn’t represent real Americans anymore. Just global corporations and foreign lobbies.

A new conservative party is needed. The country cries out for it.

#23 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 11, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

Until this year when my freind Justice Roberts decided to rewrite the health care initiative no president had an opportunity to take on Medicaid, Medicare or similar programs. There was nothing in it’s place. It is only this year when everyone is mandated to have health coverage that these programs can simply be phased out.

The idea that President Nixon was going to dismantle programs during the social instability of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s doesn’t carry a lot of weight. Troops coming home from Vietnam, social more’s being turned upside down, deep divisions which had heretofore gonbe relatively unnoticed by most of white society — for most thought the schools were integrated, blacks could vote etc. Suddenly, evreyone wanted civil liberties and not just so they could eat.

Our civil society was not so civil and the prananoia credited to the Nixon WH also embodied everyday citizens, especially blacks and the youth as revelation after revelation laid unsavory tactics not only by police, but the neighbor nmext door.

#24 Comment By EarlyBird On December 11, 2012 @ 8:17 pm

Reagan conservatism is dead. We are witnessing the last ugly spasms of a very tired movement. Just as Democrats finally accepted that it’s not always Selma, 1964, Republicans have to figure out that it’s not always 1980.

There is a place for government in the modern world, and it should be as small as is optimal. Rather than being obsessed with “small” government per se, conservatives should focus on “smart” government.

As an example, Wall Street nearly destroyed the US and world economy because federal oversight was too small, and Obama’s attempted fix was to write big, dumb, ham-fisted regulations. Can’t we figure out ways to properly regulate Wall Street without smothering enterprise and properly-sized risk taking?

Using government properly and smartly – and that includes keeping the size and cost down – is where Republicans should refocus. It is not an approach which automatically alienates half the country, and is a way to come back to policy and political relevancy.

#25 Comment By Austin Rebreh On December 11, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

“no-fault divorce, legalized drugs, “reproductive rights,” teenage access to birth control, gay rights and gay marriage–have either been embraced or become acceptable to most of America’s young.”

The subtitle reads as “inevitable overreach of liberal government.” Can I surmise that you are unhappy with the lack of government overreach into areas such as gay marriage and marijuana?

#26 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 12, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

My defense of Pres, Nixon is not an endorsement for protecting supporters who break into psychiatric files.

#27 Comment By phelps On December 12, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

Pat has a good point. The Welfare-Warfare State is unsustainable and will eventually implode. Who will America look to for leadership when that implosion takes place? Just an opinion, but it will not be those respondsible for the destruction. Many feel the Repubs and Dems are just opposite sides of the same coin.

Demographics will eventually tear the country apart. We could live to see a division of America, or new ideas take hold of our citizens leaving both conversative and liberal ideals in the dustbin of history. Time will tell.

Pat quoted a Merle Haggard song in one of his writings awhile back. In that same song was the lyric, “stop rolling down hill like a snowball headed for hell”. America is rolling faster with each passing day. All good things must come to end.

Good day.

#28 Comment By Lord Karth On December 12, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

Just remember one thing: Math always wins.

Your servant,

Lord Karth

#29 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 17, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

I am still unashamed to claim the title conservative and republican . . .

#30 Comment By Fast Jimmy On December 17, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

Black and white as usual… It’s either get our way totally or succumb to the ‘inevitable liberal overreach’.

A third option would be to, as quickly as possible, make the best, most functional deal with the Democrats. This would allow for a solution that was tempered by the best tenets of conservatism.

Of course, that would indicate a degree of maturity and pragmatism, not to mention a willingness to solve problems, that the GOP abandoned long ago.

#31 Comment By Davidnthen On December 28, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

Pat, you are the only one who sees the truth behind the decline of the Republican Party…the Republicans are now a permanent “minority” party, now that racial and ethnic “minorities” are becoming the “majority” of the American electorate. As Republicans–with the support of the very liberals and ex-hippies like Clinton and John Kerry and Ed Kennedy—helped destroy the economic security of their old electoral base with outsourcing and unrestrained immigration, they destroyed themselves. You have got to remember that the Democrats are as opposed to Pat’s “economic patriotism” as the Corporations and Wall Street elites that the Republicans cater to.

Nominate Romney, the “pioneer of outsourcing” and they are surprised they lost to Obama? No surprise to me. Shouldn’t be a surprise to the Republicans either.