Back to Basics - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Back to Basics

The age of Reagan, we are told is over. Conservatives have had their day have been rejected and replaced with liberalism the likes of which has not been in power since the New Deal From the breathtaking victories of the Reagan Revolution the fall of the Soviet Union and the Gingrich take over of Congress we have come to this an Obama presidency and the most liberal Congress since the days of LBJ and his Great Society What in the world went wrong?

In a word what went wrong was the abandonment of first principles It was conservatives becoming more interested in power and the accompanying glory than in their core beliefs. It was conservatives being willingly co-opted by the moderate Republicans to whom winning was the only thing whatever the cost. It was conservatives supporting things like the Medicare prescription drug benefit, giveaway farm bills, No Child Left Behind, and bank bailouts in return for a Christmas card or an invitation to the White House. Lord Acton famously said that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer put it another way when he said that every great cause becomes a movement, the movement a business, and eventually the whole thing degenerates into a racket. For some that corruption blossomed in the Reagan years and came to full bloom over the last eight. Now we will all pay the price.

I may have missed it but I don’t recall having heard about individual liberty in the 2008 campaign, or constitutional government, or traditional values, or the rule of law. Those, along with a few others, were the foundation of the conservative movement and it was the dedication of devoted men and women to develop those principles into policies and to stick to them that eventually beat back the predominant liberalism of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Conservatism in those days offered few opportunities, with the result that there weren’t many opportunists looking for ways to enhance their résumés or their pocketbooks. If one did not really believe in the principles there wasn’t much reason to hook up with the movement.

There will be much soul searching over the coming months, and no small number of attempts to rejuvenate the right into a cohesive and effective force. The philosophical foundations of the conservative cause are as sound as ever, and the movement has the resources to assert those principles and a receptive audience as well. According to a Newsweek poll reported in late October, people calling themselves conservatives outnumber liberals by two to one. As the new administration and Congress overreach, which they are certain to do, opportunities to clearly enunciate those principles will abound.

As for The American Spectator, our readers can count on the fact that, as we have always done before, we will report what the mainstream media will not. To keep up to date with what will be happening on a day-to-day basis, we urge our readers to visit our web site,, every day –³in fact, several times a day. Philip Klein, who covered the Obama campaign from the beginning, will report on the Obama White House and administration, while W. James Antle, III, another of our able reporters, will keep track of and analyze what Congress is up to. In addition to the fast-paced reporting that will appear on our expanded website, the magazine will continue to provide deeper analysis of what is going on in the political arena while keeping our finger on the rebuilding of the conservative movement. And of course in the process we will try to maintain our sharp sense of humor. What more fun can there be, after all, than to skewer a self-important liberal from time to time? What a target rich environment it will be.

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