Jewish World Review Dec. 3, 2004 / 20 Kislev 5765
Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak
A Prescription for Taking Back the Right: The Right Rx
Of all the groups bewildered and dismayed by the 2004 election, two have
the most reason to fret. Liberals and conservatives.
The liberal problem is simpler. All they have to do is find a large enough
mirror, drag themselves to it, and ask,"Is this the best we can do"?
Conservatives, meanwhile, are already in front of their mirror. Some are
preening. But others are asking themselves, "Is this really what we want to
More specifically: Do we wish to be the party and the movement of Big
Government, Big Business, Big Religion, and potentially limitless war? Do
we wish to endorse an "ownership society", whose artfully packaged central
tenets---abolition of taxation on investment income; easing of taxation of
the affluent via various savings accounts; and privatization of Social
Security-- will lay the burden of taxation ever more heavily on the poor?
Two other factions have expressed their dismay quite clearly. Both seek
a vision that prevailed before the neoconservative ascendancy. One faction
described, not always completely or fairly, as populist and isolationist,
job-loss obsessed, anti-immigration, perhaps with a streak of good
old-fashioned bigotry. The other wishes to reaffirm a few reaffirmables,
such as limited government and a more modest foreign policy, without doing
all that much about it, indeed, without overtly denouncing the neocons and
Bush at all. The first faction might be termed Buchananite; the second,
paleocon. Neither is likely to connect with the American people anytime
There is, however, a curious third alternative, expressed by Seattle-based
writer Philip Gold in his new book, TAKE BACK THE RIGHT. It is important to
acknowledge that I know Dr. Gold and speak with him long distance
I may not always agree with him but I respect his innovative thinking,
prophetic wisdom and elegant writing style.
The book is cast as a personal memoir: how the author, after decades of
uneasiness about where conservatism was headed, finally broke with the
movement over Iraq. But he also rewrites the history of conservatism. The
movement's standard history depicts a brilliant intellectual, political and
cultural Long March, with a few unfortunate digressions. To Gold,
conservatism's history has been a tale of gaining the world but losing your
That soul could have been a stern yet gracious alloy of aristocracy
and modesty. An aristocraticy that recognized injustice without reducing
to their wounds; that upheld an excellence of standards, not exclusion;
that respected diversity while insisting on a common ground of active,
participatory citizenship; the pessimistic understanding that humans are
perfectible, and any attempt to create "perfection" leads to horror,
tempered by an optimistic sense of human potential.
Conservatism sold that soul for money and votes. It did so and does so at
home by pandering to resentment and mediocrity, not to speak of bigotry. It
does so abroad by belief that whatever we do is right because we're the
who are doing it. By this interpretation, the neocon triumph is not an
aberration. It is the logical product of decades of an interlocking set of
moral abdications and self-delusions.
But abdication and self-delusion will only get you so far. Gold points to
what he calls the "Year-Six Jinx." Every president since Woodrow Wilson who
served at least six years has experienced scandal, defeat, even repudiation
those final years. President Bush's Year Six could be especially grim if
Iraq (and Iran?) wars and the economy turn more sour. And therein might lie
an opportunity for conservatism to begin to recover the sensibility that it
once hoped to offer America.
But how? Gold offers scant hope that the Republican Party, one half of the
"Republocrat imperium" as he calls it, will abandon its currently winning
ways. Rather, a genuine Year-Six crisis might offer the possibility,
although faint, of a serious third party forming. Historically, third
parties have been trivial; those aspiring to significance have ended up as
transient "spoilers" or co-opted by the Republocrats, or both. No viable
third party is likely to emerge from the grass roots.
Still, a party that formed "top-down," by disaffected Republicans and
Democrats who brought their status, their expertise, and their money with
them, might stand some sort of chance or affect the election outcome.
Certainly, there's enough disaffection out there in spite of the clear
Republican victory in November.
IDEALLY, for what would such a party stand? For a combination of
aristocracy and modesty in all things. Politically, for a cautious foreign
policy, an end to unrestrained spending, economic reconstruction, and the
renewed protection of individual rights and liberties. Culturally, for a
recognition that virtue and excellence may take many forms. And for a
healthcare system that stands and delivers, rather than failing to treat,
so many healthcare eproviders are doing! (More on that in my book next
And most of all, for the belief that even the most grandiose and appealing
theories and ideologies must be measured against reality and real-world
Editors Note: Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., penned this week's commentary
Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments
on medical-legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is a Discovery Institute
Senior Fellow and a past president of the Association of American Physicians
and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists.
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