Monday, 9 February 2004

The C word

Steven Taylor thinks conservatives need to learn to love the Shrub, since otherwise they may well receive eight more years of Clintonism. On the other hand, if you’re a conservative—not necessarily a Republican, mind you—a spell of divided government might well be desirable.

It seems to me, at the simplest level, that different sorts of conservatism require the control of different branches of government. Fiscal conservatism rests largely on control of Congress; if you keep spending and taxes down, there isn’t much the White House or Supreme Court can do about it. Social conservatism, on the other hand, rests on control of the presidency and the judiciary; the Justice Department effectively decides to what degree morals violations (like prostitution and drug crimes) are prosecuted, while the judiciary effectively sets the limits of what personal behavior Congress and the states can regulate.

There are, of course, other issues to base one’s vote on; the Clinton administration fiddled while North Korea and Iraq burned during the 1990s, instead expending political capital on dubious adventures like Haiti (which is now in more of a mess than when I was a wee intern in D.C. being briefed on this problem 9 years ago) and saving the Europeans’ asses in the Balkans. And, at the moment, it’s hard to tell if Kerry’s campaign-trail pronouncements are simply part of a red-meat distribution effort to keep the Deaniacs on the Democratic bus through November or actually serious foreign policy views—if you believe they’re the latter, you might think twice about jumping on the divided government bandwagon.

But, given that Congress is essentially a lock to remain in Republican hands for the forseeable future,* if you’re not much of a social conservative and you make under $200k it’s hard to see what you’d lose under a Kerry (or Edwards) administration.

This is today’s entry in the BTJ™.

* I plan to post something on this topic in the next day or so.