I think that Peter Berkowitz is missing something basic and structural in his prescription for “recalibrating conservatism”:
Because we live in a progressive age, it’s easier for American conservatives to focus their best energies on saying no to more and more government. The natural tendency of big, centralized government to grow bigger and more centralized has been amply demonstrated by the federal government’s post-New Deal trajectory. Rising income equality and declining social mobility notwithstanding, popular culture and shared norms for generations have been steadily trending more egalitarian and more permissive. Conservatives rightly regard these tendencies as major threats to individual liberty and equality under law. And they properly make resisting them a priority.
Yet as Edmund Burke observed in “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” a complete statesman must possess not merely “a disposition to preserve” but also “an ability to improve.” Never has that counsel been more appropriate. The American people have developed expectations—by now deeply rooted and widely shared—that the federal government must provide a social safety net and regulate the economy.
That conservatives will generally seek a more modest social safety net and more restrained regulation than progressives does not relieve conservatives of the responsibility to devise measures to ensure a social safety net as well as economic regulations that are, consistent with conservatism’s principles, effective and affordable. Indeed, since conservatives are bucking the temper of the times, it will be necessary for them, especially if they wish to win national elections, to craft policies with greater care and to support them with more compelling evidence and arguments.
The authors of the new e-book, “Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class,” have risen to the occasion. Published by the YG Network (YG stands for young guns), their short volume comprises a collection of essays by prominent conservative thinkers responding in particular to “the worries and anxieties” of middle-class Americans—those who work for a living and regard themselves as neither rich nor poor but who can imagine themselves as becoming either—by articulating a “concrete conservative governing agenda.”
and that is this. Technocrats and social conservatives will always dominate Republican Party politics because libertarians and small government conservatives don’t have the patience with government or sticktoitiveness to pay their dues. There will be the occasional senator or period of ascendancy but they will always inevitably return to the sidelines.
Whether meek or bold the tenacious will inherit the earth and there’s nothing like the conviction that your life or livelihood depends on an institution to make you sufficiently patient to toil in the vineyards long enough to have real influence. It’s the drummer in the band who sets the beat.