Breaching FDR's Fortress, Cont.

At Daily Kos, blogger Hunter takes issue with my claim that "conservatives haven't really changed the guiding assumptions of American governance":

Saying "the conservative movement hasn't really changed the guiding assumptions of American governance or stopped the expansion of the welfare state" isn't just not true, it's a ridiculous statement. It's a bit past ridiculous, in fact.

The conservative movement hasn't changed guiding assumptions of American governance? Really? What channels has this person been watching? As has been pointed out countless times in countless outlets, the policies of Ronald Reagan himself are now considered too liberal for him to survive in modern GOP politics. Ditto Buckley. Ditto David Frum. Ditto Bob Bennett. John McCain, the ex-presidential candidate of the Republican Party, had to launch himself into loony-land to survive a primary attempt mounted against him.

Two facts are in the way of Hunter's rebuttal. First, it's simply the case that conservative Republicans used their unified control of Congress and the White House to pass a huge expansion of the welfare state, in the form of Medicare Part D. And second, conservative Republicans have spent the last year defending the welfare state in a failed attempt to stop its expansion. Every time a Republican railed against Medicare cuts, they were tacitly agreeing with the idea that some citizens shouldn't be left without health care. A liberal idea. And say what you will about the implementation of health-care reform -- it's something I don't actually have a problem with -- but we now live in a country where the government has explicitly guaranteed health insurance to its citizens. That is a clear liberal victory. This is not to say that there aren't problems, or that we shouldn't fight against those who would intervene on behalf of the privileged at the expense of everyone else, but that in the broad scheme, we are not losing this game.

One last thought: While I don't want progressives to emulate the right's rhetoric, I would like progressives to emulate the right's determination. If there's anything that distinguishes the right from the left, it's that conservatives take the long view. Conservatives complained about Roe v. Wade, yes, but they subsequently spent decades laying the groundwork for a conservative court. Insofar that the right has been successful, it's because they don't accept failure. There are no setbacks, only obstacles.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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