(Jim Clark) – Is there a new face on conservatism? Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Liz Marlantes describes a well-known Republican senator with 34 years seniority, a history of clashes with Big Labor, a champion of right-wing judicial nominees, a fierce opponent of federal gun control proposals, a supporter of a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriages, a sponsor of numerous efforts to enact a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, and a 2010 recipient of a perfect 100 score by the American Conservative Union.
And yet Senator Orrin Hatch may be facing a primary challenge because he is not “Republican” enough. Utah conservatives have already dispatched Republican Senator Bob Bennett for the same reason. The Utah right attacks Hatch for his vote on the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout of banks, his history of voting 16 times to raise the debt ceiling, and his willingness to work with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
The modern conservative movement is generally thought to have originated with Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), who espoused strict constitutionalism, strong national security, low taxation, and light government regulation. Socially, Goldwater was actually pro-choice on woman’s reproductive rights; an Episcopalian, he was not given to puritanical moral codes. Even so, his views were considered so extreme that he was defeated in a landslide by Lyndon Johnston in the 1964 presidential race.
Goldwater’s brand of conservatism survived his defeat and was picked up by both Orrin Hatch and Ronald Reagan in the 1976 election. Hatch won his senate seat that year and Reagan came very close to unseating then GOP President Gerald Ford at the Republican convention, finally earning the top spot in the 1980 election.
Reagan’s ideology pretty much followed Goldwater’s. Socially, he adhered to an abortion plank that pleased the “Moral Majority” and yet had some loopholes (his wife Nancy was unabashedly pro choice), and he was always available to attend prayer meetings held by his supporters.
The shift in what Justice Cardozo called the “zeitgeist,” the spirit of the times, probably began about midway in George Bush’s second term. Record deficit spending, a new and expensive Medicare drug program, generous AIDS funding in Africa, and the financial and personnel costs of two wars combined to give Democrats control of both houses of Congress.
The growing financial woes caused by the sub-prime mortgage mess finally exploded at the end of the Bush Administration, resulting in a Republican scheme to bail out banks and brokerages. This was followed by Obama’s election which spawned “Stimulus I” and Obamacare.
These spending orgies, in turn, gave spontaneous rise to the tea party movement, which united conservatives around a platform of fiscal restraint, consciously omitting socially conservative planks involving abortion or opposition to gay rights. The Tea Party Express states that it stands for five simple principles: “end the bailouts, reduce the size and intrusiveness of government, stop out-of-control spending, no government-run health care and stop raising our taxes.”
A new Rasmussen poll found that 64% of likely U.S. voters favor spending cuts in every program of the federal government as the nation searches for solutions to the budget crisis. Reno banker and investment advisor Robert Barone goes a step further. He warns that a slow economy coupled with entitlement growth will devalue the dollar, cause inflation to skyrocket, and decimate our standard of living. He prescribes: a rational tax policy (flat tax or national sales tax), curtailing government meddling (Dodd-Frank, Obamacare, the EPA), and a policy that encourages development of our natural resources (cheap energy).
Voters will have an opportunity next year to retire many elected officials who want to continue to spend us into oblivion, but we probably won’t be hearing much about Roe v. Wade.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates and a member of the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)