Picking up the pieces and letting voters know what American conservatism stands for

NRO2Yuval Levin has a good article in the National Review about Obama’s second inaugural — here are Levin’s closing paragraphs:

[I]t is precisely the vision laid out [in the] president’s speech that has brought us to this difficult moment. Our foremost domestic challenges now almost all have to do with mitigating the enormous damage done to our economic dynamism, our social fabric, and our fiscal prospects by the public exertions most directly attributable to the sort of progressivism Obama laid out. This generation and the next one (at least) will spend their political energies trying to pick up the pieces of the Great Society and to construct alternatives to its foremost achievements that are better suited to the kind of country we are and want to be. And today’s progressives are very poorly suited to that task, because they do not see the problem, and they have a rather peculiar notion of the kind of country we are and want to be.

For conservatives to do better, it would be helpful to understand the left’s failings, and this speech is not a bad place to start. Look at the vision it lays out. It denies the relevance of our constitutional system, the value of civil society, the social achievement that is our culture of individual initiative and economic dynamism, the dignity of every life whether wanted by others or not, and the unsustainability of the liberal welfare state.

A coherent alternative would need to answer each of these errors and to put forward a political vision and program that champions the constitutional system and its underlying worldview, lifts up civil society as a key source of our strength, sustains the moral preconditions for democratic capitalism, protects every life, and transforms the institutions of the liberal welfare state into a robust safety net that guards the vulnerable and gives everyone a chance to benefit from and participate in our dynamic economy rather than shielding them from it. It is not hard to imagine such a combination of ideas because that combination, in its various forms, is what American conservatism stands for. It probably wouldn’t hurt to let the voting public know that.

Read the article…