All Mod Cons


The American Spectator's Philip Klein reports from a meeting of the conservative movement's old Reaganite hands in Virginia.

There's a strong feeling, [Spectator Editor R. Emmet] Tyrrell said, that social conservatives, free market conservatives, and national security conservatives will all be able to work together.

He also said that "there's a sense that the Republicans on Capitol Hill are freer of wobbly-kneed Republicans than they were before the election."

[Spectator Publisher Al] Regnery said, "The consensus was that this was not a mandate for Democrats, that this country is still center-right. The overriding fear was that the Republican Party does not represent conservatives," and there was a desire to get behind genuinely conservative candidates.

Isn't it striking how the two parties react to defeat? In 2004, Democrats agonized about how the loss of "values voters" was a problem they'd have to overcome, that they needed a new Southern governor to win, because that's the only way they'd won since the 1970s. Late in the year Democratic leaders tried to anoint pro-life former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer as DNC chair on the harebrained theory that this would satisfy Republican voters somehow.

Party leaders say their support for preserving the landmark ruling will not change. But they are looking at ways to soften the hard line, such as promoting adoption and embracing parental notification requirements for minors and bans on late-term abortions. Their thinking reflects a sense among strategists that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and the party's congressional candidates lost votes because the GOP conveyed a more compelling message on social issues.

Democrats spent much of the next two years in that box. Phil Bredesen, the conservative Democratic governor of Tennessee who has all the charisma of Stephen Wright at 4 a.m., was looked at as a prospective president because he cut spending and was, uh, from the South.

Flash forward to today, and the Democrats have elected a black senator who was raised in Hawai'i and Indonesia and who was accused by his opponent of being a socialist who befriended terrorists and voted for infanticide. So you can see why conservatives are skipping the "how do we change?" part and going right to hoping that Obama screws up. But this part of Klein's report doesn't make sense to me.

Although polls show that "conservative" is a more popular word than "Republican," it turns out that "Democrat" is a more popular description than "liberal," and the sentiment was that tougher language needed to be used to define Barack Obama and other Democrats as liberals.

Tougher? How about "socialist?" Oh, wait.

Language used to work for Republicans. Indeed, one of the more mockable exercises that Democrats tried from December 2004 to November 2006 was "reframing" their policies, because they were so in awe of how Republicans had popularized terms like "death tax" and made "liberal" a curse word.