Condi Conservatism

From “Party of Strivers,” David Brooks, NYT:

“I see what the G.O.P. is offering the engineering major from Purdue or the business major from Arizona State.  The party is offering skilled people the freedom to run their race.  I don’t see what the party is offering the waitress with two kids, or the warehouse worker whose wages have stagnated for a decade, or the factory worker whose skills are now obsolete.

“The fact is our destinies are shaped by social forces much more than the current G.O.P. is willing to admit.  The skills that enable people to flourish are not innate but constructed by circumstances.

Government does not always undermine initiative.  Some government programs, like the G.I. Bill, inflame ambition.  Others depress it.  What matters is not whether a program is public or private but its effect on character.  Todays Republicans, who see every government program as a step on the road to serfdom, are often blind to that.  They celebrate the race to success but don’t know how to give everyone access to that race.

The wisest speech departed from the prevailing story line.  It was delivered by Condoleezza Rice.  It echoed an older, less libertarian conservatism, which harkens back to Washington, Tocqueville and Lincoln.  The powerful words in her speech were not ‘I’ and ‘me’ — the heroic individual.  They were ‘we’ and ‘us’ — citizens who emerge out of and exist as participants in a great national project.

“Rice celebrated material striving but also larger national goals — the long national struggle to extend benefits and mobilize all human potential.  She subtly emphasized how our individual destinies are dependent upon the social fabric and upon public institutions like schools, just laws and our mission in the world.  She put less emphasis on commerce and more on citizenship.

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