According to author, Drew Westen, who is a Psychologist, Neuroscientist and Emory University Professor, the five strands once held together due to “a charismatic leader bringing it together (Ronald Reagan), a tacit agreement among its coalition partners to give each other what they wanted, and a message machine to start selling the idea that that there was coherence to a conservative “philosophy” that was anything but coherent.”
He goes on to say these, “five discrete strands and interest groups that couldn’t coexist … only began to unravel because the GOP under the Bush Administration became so corrupt, inept, and/or bankrupt (or causing bankruptcy) that even moderate Republicans jumped ship.”
The five ideologies:
- Libertarian Conservatism
Think Barry Goldwater. Libertarian conservatives believe government should be small and weak and kept that way through low taxes.
- Social Conservatism
Believe that they have privileged knowledge of God’s Will and hence have the right to use whatever methods available–including the instruments of state–to impose that will on others.
- Old Fashioned Fiscal Conservatism
Fiscal conservatives accept the premises of the New Deal–that we need a safety net, that when people lose their jobs because of economic downturns they shouldn’t lose their homes, that people deserve some minimal degree of dignity in old age if they worked hard for 40 years–but prefer the safety net and tax codes to be thin.
- National Security Conservatism
Hawkish (although they have a curious habit of evading military service when it comes their turn), and they are generally quick to accuse others of being soft on the threat du jour (unless the other side happens to be in an interventionist mood, in which case they often morph into isolationists just for sport, as when George W. Bush attacked Clinton and Gore for “nation building” and then went on a six year binge of it).
- Bigots /Prejudice
The one Nixon exploited with his Southern Strategy and the Republicans have exploited ever since, whether the issue is voting rights, “welfare queens,” affirmative action, or the fate of “illegals.” Given that most white Americans no longer see themselves or want to see themselves as racist, and that they actually consciously eschew racist sentiments and actions such as overt discrimination against people because of the color of their skin, emotional appeals to this segment of the conservative population tend to be strongest when a conscious “text” with some merit (e.g., we can’t simply open the floodgates to all who would want to enter the United States and become citizens) is superimposed on the unconscious “subtext” of prejudice (the people flooding in happen to have dark skin).
The reality is that it’s going to be difficult to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, and it’s going to take someone with vision and charisma to figure out which aspects of conservatism to bring back into the center and which to catapult without losing a base that is now seriously out of step with mainstream America.
Faux tea parties aren’t going to get them there, either (and if you ask me, they seem more than a little elite (tea?) and, well, gay (don’t real men drink beer?) for a Party determined to “save the institution of marriage.” But perhaps as they clink their porcelain cups in unison for high tea, they’ll have an epiphany about how to replace their predictable and carping Constant Comments about taxes and deficits with a new blend. Perhaps they could borrow some green tea from the President.