Would Republicans be popular again if they’d only dump their conservative principles? That’s the advice in this week’s U.S. News & World Report, contained in Thomas K. Grose’s “Letter from Bournemouth, England.” Grose salutes Britain’s Conservative Party leader David Cameron for his thoroughly un-conservative approach of eschewing tax cuts, supporting gay marriage and the minimum wage, and calling Britain’s National Health Service a “great achievement.”
Grose thinks American Republicans should also morph into liberals: “Cameron’s centerward drive contrasts sharply with American conservatism, where the Republican Party is fighting the midterm congressional elections by lurching even further to the right to appease its base voters. While Cameron chirps about sunshine, Vice President Dick Cheney stumps for GOP candidates by depicting the world in gloomy terms and playing to voters' fears of terrorism.”
Grose’s piece is filled with unkind adjectives for British conservatives — their old platform was “harsh,” a pollster says the Conservative Party had a “nasty image,” and Grose predicts “even the most troglodyte of Tory voters will very likely reconcile themselves to Cameron’s liberalism if it looks as if it’ll reverse their electoral losing streak.”
I don’t know about our British cousins, but I don’t think there are many authentic American conservatives who would suddenly switch into big government, blame-America-first liberals if it meant winning a few more seats in Congress. After all, who needs two Democratic Parties? One is more than enough.
Here are some longer excerpts from Grose’s essay on Cameron, “The Not-So Conservative,” which appeared in the October 30 issue, picking up after he recites the problems of the post-Thatcher Conservative Party:
So now for something completely different: The new Tory leader, David Cameron, is bragging that his party is "back in the center ground of British politics" and preaching the politics of optimism. "Let sunshine win the day," Cameron, 39, tells voters. Says Martin Boon, associate director of pollster ICM Research: "He's saying, 'Here's an organization that's shed its nasty image.'" When Cameron addressed his party's annual conference three weeks ago in this seaside resort city, he ignored Europe and immigration. Instead he stressed the importance of the NHS (calling it a "great achievement"), saluted gay marriages, supported the minimum wage, and called for strict measures to combat global warming. More startlingly, Cameron is refusing to pledge to cut taxes, which is usually the first promise out of the mouth of a Tory leader. If Rush Limbaugh were British, he'd be bloody apoplectic with rage.
Indeed, Cameron's centerward drive contrasts sharply with American conservatism, where the Republican Party is fighting the midterm congressional elections by lurching even further to the right to appease its base voters. While Cameron chirps about sunshine, Vice President Dick Cheney stumps for GOP candidates by depicting the world in gloomy terms and playing to voters' fears of terrorism....
It was Blair's success in pushing his once Socialist-leaning party to the middle ground that helped him capture 10 Downing Street. Cameron faces hurdles, of course-especially given that another election isn't expected before 2008. "A lot of Labor's negatives might disappear with Blair," notes Andrew Cooper, director of Populus, a polling firm. And not all in the Conservative Party are comfortable with Cameron's tactics, especially his disavowing tax cuts. Convincing voters his party is as centrist as he claims to be may prove a hard sell. Still, Cameron's a welcome change to some Bournemouth voters. Chris Weale, 51, calls him a "fresh face in politics." And though Weale has voted Conservative in the past because he favors low taxes, he says Cameron's refusal to promise cuts is "very sensible."...
British historian Niall Ferguson, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, predicts Cameron's "liberal conservatism" is a winning formula, not only in the United Kingdom but in the United States, where pragmatic, centrist Republicans like California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg "float untainted above the ghastly morass created by the Republican right."
Even the most troglodyte of Tory voters will very likely reconcile themselves to Cameron's liberalism if it looks as if it'll reverse their electoral losing streak. Says London School of Economics politics Prof. Rodney Barker: "They would still rather vote for a Conservative leader they don't trust than a Labor leader they don't trust."