The basic problem with George Packer’s New Yorker piece on “The Fall of Conservatism” is that Packer conflates conservatism with Republicanism to such a degree that GOP electoral success becomes a metric of the validity of conservative ideas. Thus, Packer’s subtitle:
Have the Republicans run out of ideas?
Conservative ideas were as valid in 1964 and 1974 as they are today, yet ’64 and ’74 were the two worst years for the GOP in the past half-century. Indeed, as any reader of Al Regnery’s Upstream would know, the original seeds of what became the modern conservative movement were sown in the 1940s, when Democrats ruled the roost. The movement grew during the 1950s and anyone who has read William F. Buckley Jr.’s 1959 book Up From Liberalism knows that Buckley was a caustic critic of Eisenhower’s “Modern Republicanism.” (Do these New Yorker writers never read any good books?)
However woeful the current state of affairs for Republicans — and things look pretty grim — this is not a reflection on conservative philosophy as such, especially since GOP officeholders have hardly been paragons of conservatism in recent years.