Den amerikanske højrefløj p.t.

Det går ikke så godt for Bush, Republikanerne og den amerikanske højrefløj her i foråret. Eller gør det? Wall Street Journal havde tirsdag en interessant kronik af de to The Economist skribenter John Micklethwait og Adrian Wooldridge, som sidste år udgav den roste og–synes denne punditokrat–udmærkede bog The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America. Den var–især givet at forfatterne er journalister–et sjældent seriøst kik på de lange tendenser i amerikansk politik.

I de to forfatteres nye, indsigtsfulde kronik argumenterer de, at det nærmest går ufatteligt godt for Bush, Republikanerne og den amerikanske højrefløj–og måske meget bedre end disse selv tror. Her er et par uddrag:

"[It] is time for conservatives to cheer up. Fixate on a snapshot of recent events and pessimism makes sense. Stand back and look at the grand sweep of things and the darkness soon lifts. There are two questions that really matter in assessing the current state of conservatism: What direction is America moving in? And how does the United States compare with the rest of the world? The answer to both questions should encourage the right.

The Republicans have by far the most powerful political machine in the country. Last November, the Democrats threw everything they had at George Bush, from the pent-up fury of a "stolen election" to the millions of George Soros. Liberals outspent and out-ranted conservatives, and pushed up Democratic turnout by 12%. But the Republicans increased their turnout by a fifth.

Crucially, George Bush won as a conservative: He did not "triangulate" or hide behind a fuzzy "Morning in America" message. Against the background of an unpopular war and an arguably dodgy economy, he positioned himself to the right, betting that conservative America was bigger than liberal America. And it was …

All second-term presidents face restlessness in the ranks. And the noise is arguably a sign of strength. The Democrats would give a lot to have a big-tent party as capacious as the Republicans'. One of the reasons the GOP manages to contain Southern theocrats as well as Western libertarians is that it encourages arguments rather than suppressing them. Go to a meeting of young conservatives in Washington and the atmosphere crackles with ideas, much as it did in London in the heyday of the Thatcher revolution. The Democrats barely know what a debate is.

Moreover, it is not as if the Republican moderates really pose a long-term threat to the conservatives. The High Command of the party–Messrs. Bush, Cheney, Frist, Hastert and DeLay–are all from the right. Even Messrs. McCain and Giuliani are better described as mavericks rather than liberals. Mr. Giuliani is as resolute on terrorism as Churchill would have been; Mr. McCain mixes social conservatism with media-pleasing iconoclasm. Both these alleged RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) are further to the right than Ronald Reagan on plenty of issues. …

The essential conservatism of Mr. Bush's approach is all the clearer if you compare it with the big-government liberalism of the 1960s–or with the big-government reality of European countries that American liberals are so keen to emulate. Mr. Bush is not using government to redistribute wealth (unless you own an oil company), to reward sloth or to coddle the poor. And government in America remains a shriveled thing by European standards. Some 40 years after the Great Society, America still has no national health service; it asks students to pay as much as $40,000 a year for a university education; it gives mothers only a few weeks of maternity leave. …

The biggest advantage of all for conservatives is that they have a lock on the American dream. America is famously an idea more than a geographical expression, and that idea seems to be the province of the right. A recent Pew Research Center Survey, "Beyond Red Versus Blue," shows that the Republicans are more optimistic, convinced that the future will be better than the past and that they can determine their own futures. Democrats, on the other hand, have a European belief that "fate," or, in modern parlance, social circumstances, determines people's lot in life. … If the American dream means anything, it means finding a plot of land where you can shape your destiny and raise your children. Those pragmatic dreamers look ever more Republican. Mr. Bush walloped Mr. Kerry among people who were married with children. He also carried 25 of the top 26 cities in terms of white fertility. Mr. Kerry carried the bottom 16. San Francisco, the citadel of liberalism, has the lowest proportion of people under 18 in the country (14.5%).

So cheer up conservatives. You have the country's most powerful political party on your side. You have control of the market for political ideas. You have the American dream. And, despite your bout of triste post coitum, you are still outbreeding your rivals. That counts for more than the odd setback in the Senate."

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