Monday, June 21, 2010

POLITICS - Obama and the "Right"

"How Obama changed the right" by E.J. Dionne Jr., 6/21/2010


Barack Obama's campaign promise of change did not include a pledge to transform American conservatism. But one of his presidency's major legacies may be a revolution on the American right in which older, more secular forms of politics displace religious activism.

The reaction to Obama has also radicalized parts of the conservative movement, giving life to conspiracy theories long buried and strains of thinking similar to those espoused by the John Birch Society and other right-wing groups in the 1950s and '60s.onservatism's critics often see it as an undifferentiated mass animated by hostility to "big government," support for social traditionalism and a deep animosity toward liberalism.

But conservatism is a diverse movement with many philosophical threads and tensions. Successful conservative politicians such as Ronald Reagan (and George W. Bush in his first term) kept the peace among economic, social and big business conservatives while moderating the movement's public rhetoric. In opposition, conservatives often manage to bury their differences. But conservatism has flown apart when its components have come into conflict or when extreme rhetoric has come to the fore.

The rise of the Tea Party movement is a throwback to an old form of libertarianism that sees most of the domestic policies that government has undertaken since the New Deal as unconstitutional. It typically perceives the most dangerous threats to freedom as the design of well-educated elitists out of touch with "American values."

In its extreme antipathy to the power of the federal government, this movement may prove to be threatening to the Republicans in what should otherwise be a good year for the party.

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