Just read Ramesh Ponnuru’s Time article (Rebooting the Right), which is beyond excellent.
I want to nitpick something, however, a quote from a Pawlenty speech, which Ramesh shares without critiqe (emphasis mine):
At the GOP governors’ meeting this month, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota argued that Republicans need to stay conservative but also modernize. A revitalized conservatism would push for tax reform with an eye on middle-class families, not hedge-fund operators. It would seek solutions to global warming rather than deny that it exists. It would place a higher priority on making health care affordable than on slashing pork programs. It would promote the assimilation of Hispanics rather than regard them as a menace or a source of cheap labor.
Either Global Warming is happening or it is not (currently, and for the last decade, it appears that it has not been happening). If it is happening, it is either happening drastically or not or somewhere in between. If it is happening, its effects are either cataclysmic or not or somewhere in-between, or possibly—on balance—even beneficial. And if it is happening—and, once again, it appears from the data that it is not currently happening—mankind is either causing it or adding to it . . . or neither.
It isn’t up to politicians or conservative political pundits to decide what is happening with global climate and it is either dangerously delusional or simply disingenuous for either to claim otherwise. In other words, you can’t simply choose to “seek solutions to global warming rather than deny that it exists.” It would be the height of folly, or of craven political fear, to seek solutions to something that you don’t believe exists. Or that you don’t believe is the kind of existential threat claimed by environmental alarmists.
What I believe Pawlenty is asking conservatives and Republicans to do is pander.
Sorry. I’m not going to sign on for that.
Quite honestly, I don’t think this is nitpicking. I don’t think pandering is conservative. And I don’t think buying into politically-motivated, sloppy science is conservative either. To me, the essence of conservatism is that it is clear-eyed, unsentimental.
As I’ve already written previously, before we can set about modernizing either the conservative movement or the Republican Party—and I’m all for modernizing both of them—we first need to re-discover (re-discover, not redefine) what it means to be a conservative. We need to re-embrace and internalize our First Principles. Then set about applying them to the modern world. More than that though, we need to learn how to explain them to an understandably skeptical world.
This is a generational problem that is not going to be solved after a couple of politicians’ speeches or angry remonstrances by formerly conservative columnists who’ve gone off their feed.
Or by ignorant pandering.