One of the greatest things about attending the University of Vriginia School of Law was the school’s collegial atmosphere where conservative students regularly interacted with our liberal peers, often engaging in thoughtful discussion of political and legal issues in a most civil atmosphere.
A law student during the 1992 election, I had some great conversations with my (Bill) Clinton-supporting peers, many of whom pointed out that with their man’s election, the Reagan era was over and conservatism was in decline. I thought of those conversations earlier today, I read National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru’s Time column, “In Carter’s Shadow” where he wrote, “conservatism is fading now as liberalism was fading in the ’70s.”
But, is it fading, I wonder, or does it merely appear to be fading as my classmates contended in 1992 due to a president named Bush who while a conservative in name, governed as a moderate? Would conservatism have been perceived to be in disarray if both Presidents Bush had been more principled conservatives?
That is, would conservative still be perceived as fading if the unpopular incumbent president were not perceived to be a conservative?
From the 1930s until 1968, liberalism was in the ascent and the federal government grew ever larger, expanding its scope and increasing its role in American society. But, even with conservatism in the ascent (at least) since 1980, we have not achieved the successes liberals achieved in the half-century prior to our rise.
In those five decades, the Democrats (often with Republican help) erected a great variety of social programs which, even in the period of conservative ascent, Republicans failed to dismantle even though there was strong public support for smaller government.
So, I wonder do the American people still favor smaller government, consistent with conservative principles, or are they now comfortable with the status quo? Or do they favor even more state control of society? Or are they just unhappy with the current Administration?