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Old? Sure. But Grand?

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In The New Yorker this week, George Packer marks the fall of conservatism. It is, he writes, "the movement that Goldwater began, Nixon brought into power, Ronald Reagan gave mass appeal, Newt Gingrich radicalized, Tom DeLay criminalized, and Bush allowed to break into pieces."

In the last few years, Republicans lost their majority in the Senate and the House. In the last few months, conservatives bade farewell to their patriarch, William F. Buckley. And in the last few weeks, the Grand Old Party lost an important special election in Mississippi.

What has happened? What has changed? And what is missing?

"Among Republicans, there is no energy, no fresh thinking, no ability to capture the concerns and feelings of millions of people," Packer argues.

Do you think that the conservative movement is dead? Is the Republican party in trouble? What needs to change?



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I claim to be a conservative, and I am. I used to claim to be a republican, but no longer. I don't go to the point of disavowing the party, but I am certainly disenchanted. I believe in the original ideas of small government and lower taxes, but to some degree there are many other ideas that simply need to be adresses. The greatest problems that I see are that the current policies are ones that are great for consumers and businesses, but really don't reflect many of the concerns of the nation. Oil prices and food prices are rising and no amount of tax reform is going to alleviate that for the long term. It should be a conservative idea to "conserve" our ntional resources, and to me it has always been a conservative idea to live within our means and be a good steward to the things we are blessed with. Anymore I just feel like both parties have sold themselves to the Big Businesses. Until I see some truely conservative policies, I cannot commit myself to vote for them.

Sent by P~ | 2:18 PM | 5-19-2008

Mr. Conan, please call your guests on using "Democrat" party, as opposed to "Democratic" party. It's a "newspeak" term the Right is trying to repeat until it becomes something that is used, but it is incorrect and offensive to those of us who are members of the Democratic party.

Sent by Lucas Tobin | 2:19 PM | 5-19-2008

I have been a registered Republican since the '80s and voted Republican during the 70s.

Several trends started around Reagan's term.

1. The leadership became dominated by the right wing.

2. A shift toward erosion of personal liberties by attempting to impose religious values and other ideology.

3. A shift toward tax policy that favored high income individuals and businesses in a very inconsistent manner.

Sent by George Palecek | 2:31 PM | 5-19-2008

Listen to these guys...spinspinspin.."It's all the democrat party's fault." Blahblahblah. White, elitist, country-club, gated-community, self-entitled fatcats who've NEVER worn the uniform; in the rear with the gear types who are about one thing and one thing only - MONEY. Their money.

Sent by Bill | 2:34 PM | 5-19-2008

Somebody ought to tell your republican guests the less government isn't the solution but more. One case in point, the sub prime mortgage crises. That crises resulted directly out of their not being an enough government oversight not less. Also the whole Katrina disaster wasn't about more government it was about our government outsourcing it to corporations. That is less government not more. So I wish some of your guests would get their facts straight instead of arguing from a position of ignorance!

Sent by Timothy Jenson | 2:34 PM | 5-19-2008

As a former Republican, what I'm hearing from Republicans only affirms my satisfaction in now being an independent. Their buzz word sell and spin is part of how they have destroyed a meaningful view of politics.

When I became a Republican in the early '70's, the party stood for fiscal responsibility NOT low taxes plus 3 trillion dollars in debt, for leaving the individual alone, NOT getting into their sex life and invading their privacy without warrants, and for building America versus nation-building. The American people have learned Republican's sell and spin can't be trusted and doesn't relate to citizens.

We need a viable Independent party that isn't cast-offs of the two losers that have wrecked America.

Sent by Ed | 2:36 PM | 5-19-2008

Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, claiming to be different from most inside-the-beltway Republicans, demonstrates right out of the box two of the standard most noxious Republican behaviors: 1] Using the divisive, intentionally insulting and ungrammatical construction "the Democrat Party", and 2] calling for tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, irrespective of the fiscal havoc they create and the burden they place on future generations by creating massive debt.

Sent by Steve MacIntyre | 2:37 PM | 5-19-2008

The Republican Party as represented by your guests has learned nothing. Same old, same old, let's just say it in a different way. The plain truth is that Republicans can't reform government because their reaction to something in government not working is to say that government shouldn't be doing it. They do not look for a way to do it better. They do not look for efficiency. They simply say that government is the problem so it needs to be shrunk even as society grows larger and more complex. The real reason that they are losing now is that everyone has seen where their policies have taken us over the last 8 years and they see that it doesn't work.

Sent by Jim Satterfield | 2:38 PM | 5-19-2008

My question is: How does the Republican party expect to rebuild itself as a unified party? It is clear to me that the party achieved success as a coalition of social conservatives, Neo-com hawks, and small tax and spend de-regulators. It seems that the weakest part of the coalition is the small government group.

Sent by Fred | 2:38 PM | 5-19-2008

Has the Conservative Movement come to an end?

Yes. Resoundingly. Thank god...

Sent by greenpagan | 2:40 PM | 5-19-2008

Believe it or not, a decade ago, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
was winning management awards.

This was due, in large part, to the Clinton-Gore administration's "reinventing
government" initiative to work better and cost less.

That program, which had cut 300,000 federal jobs, was effectively abandoned under
the Bush II administration.

The idea that we must choose between "more" or "less" government is a false choice. The real aim was, and should still be, how to get the most bang
for the public's buck.

Sent by Stephen Buckley | 2:40 PM | 5-19-2008

I don't think the Republican leadership has changed its core values one single bit. It is simply trying to get votes and, in so doing, is pursuing a very dishonest campaign.

When was the last time you heard the term 'compassionate conservatism'?

Sent by Bernie L | 2:40 PM | 5-19-2008

I have a blog that I named after what everyone should say to people like the Republican guests on this show. "It's the 21st Century, Stupid!".

Sent by Jim Satterfield | 2:41 PM | 5-19-2008

I am a registered Democrat. How is the Republican party trying to attract Democrats?

Sent by Brandon | 2:41 PM | 5-19-2008

If I hear one more GOP official talk about "must cut taxes" without talking about the massive debt they are leaving the government, I'll scream. I will not vote for any Republican again until they address the debt. It's simply ridiculous.

Sent by R Keith Gargus | 2:41 PM | 5-19-2008

I agree with Lucas Tobin--this Rovian trick of using "Democrat" Party needs to be stopped. I tell people my name, not the other way around. Ditto for companies and organizations.

Sent by Michael Kjar (care) | 2:42 PM | 5-19-2008

As a young republican (gasp! even fewer of us now), I agree with Jackie's comment on social conservatism squeezing its way into the republican party. I am 100% a fiscal conservative, but it is always hard for me to stomach a candidate who is anti-abortion and pro-god. Since when is God in government?

Sent by Cat | 2:44 PM | 5-19-2008

Your guest just mention that he doesn't think the country can afford a government run by the "Democrat" (It is the Democratic party). It seems to me that the Republicans are the people who drove the bus into the ditch. It is beyond me how they can say they are better stewards of the government based on thie own record of bigger government, deficit spending and an unpopular and unwarranted war.

Sent by Darryll Barber | 2:44 PM | 5-19-2008

Earth to Republican guy! The Republicans have had the White House for seven years, the Congress for 15, and now the Supreme Court. The time to "reform" was when you had all the power. Republicans broke the country, and now they indignantly appeal for the chance to reform it? Hilarious.

Also, I second the comments by the caller appalled by the hideous treatment of people in the military. To add insult to injury, Bush's reply to criticism of the bad treatment, maiming and death is to say "hey, they volunteered."

Deregulation and the "free market" are killing us financially - unless you're living off investments or trust funds. With no rules, banks, oil companies, and utilities are sucking us dry. The new take on Reagan's question is this: Proportionate to your income, does living cost you more today than it did 8 years ago?

And Republican voters remained preoccupied with their xenophobia, and religious and racial prejudices. Good luck with that.

Sent by Mike from Boston | 2:45 PM | 5-19-2008

Perhaps the GOP policy of deception and avarice has finally begun to affect the rank and file American electorate. The GOP's total lack of concern for the domestic population, flat funding for AIDS services, Katrina fiasco, attempt to privatize Social Security etc. the Jack Abramoff corruption, the outing with impunity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, the truly sleazy corruptions of Bob Allen and Larry Craig in sex scandals of the most lurid type, the wholesale giveaway of the Treasury to war profiteers and Big Pharma (HOW can you claim to restrict government spending and then take away the government's ability to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare and Medicaid!!??!??) and on and on and on simply proves Abe Lincoln's addage about lying to all the people all the time: YOU CAN'T GET AWAY WITH IT FOR EVER, contrary to what political Rasputin Karl Rove might believe. The quality of life for average Americans is in decline and OBVIOUS. While the GOP makes sure the world is safe for the Very Rich, the rest of us have to live in the world they are creating, one of fraud, violence and avarice.

Sent by Edmund Benti | 2:46 PM | 5-19-2008

Please - someone from the republican party explain to me the constant push for "deregulation" where fiscal policy is concerned, but intense "regulation" of social policy. This is splintering the party -- as a democrat I'm pleased.

Sent by Kathy Koenig | 2:48 PM | 5-19-2008

I am sadden to see what has become of the Republican party. In truth, the party elite has brought it upon itself. They continue to be unsympathetic the needs of our people but very sympathetic to the needs of big business.

Where is the compassion Bush W campaigned on? We have 47 million people in the US that have no health insurance and we have 37 million people in the US living in poverty.

If the Republican want to gain power back again, they need to start being concerned and resolving issues of the American people. Not the corporate companies that bribe them.

Sent by Benjamin | 2:49 PM | 5-19-2008

Ed, I have to echo your comments. I agree whole heartedly, and would support a truly independant voice, unfortunately in the current political climate it just ain't gonna happen. Maybe in a few more years when the poop has really hit the propeller.

Sent by P~ | 2:49 PM | 5-19-2008

The quote (of George Packer) is VERY apropriate. But, most important is the ending

"Newt Gingrich radicalized,
Tom DeLay criminalized,
and Bush allowed to break into pieces."

People don't vote for angry old men (Bob Dole).
They don't vote for angry women (Hillary Clinton).
Running as "the angry candidate" has NEVER worked well for Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson.

Worse, if the candidate is "angry" at the behaviors that YOU like, will you vote for them? No!

Goldwater and Reagan (and George H.W. Bush) were about "FISCAL Conservatism".

Not this Pro-life, Xenophobic, Tax-cutting (at all costs, constantly pander to the tele-evangelicals), who would reform the world in OUR image crap (That's Neo-conservatism).
And it's got all the traction of Prohibition (ie. about 13 years).

People want "a return to the GOOD times". (Whenever THAT was, depends on who you ask.)

Sent by Harold | 2:50 PM | 5-19-2008

Thank you for this discourse, it strengthens my belief in the Democratic party!

Sent by Michele Johnson | 2:50 PM | 5-19-2008

I cannot let Vin Weber get away with his one feeble "statistic" in support of the Republican regime's treatment of wounded veterans - "their survival rate after injuries is better." We have all read time and again that the nature of injuries has changed. A soldier in Iraq is much more likely to lose a limb or have a non-fatal head injury from an improvised explosive device than to take a bullet to vital organs, as happened more in earlier wars. So, is the Republican Party trying to take credit for IEDs? Now I've heard everything!

Sent by Stephanie Tramdack Cash, CFA | 2:50 PM | 5-19-2008

As a retired member of the military, who is taking care of her father who is a veteran of WWII and of though not the initial wave of the D-day invasion of Omaha beach, did indeed land on the third day to face the overwhelming reality which that landing involved, I feel I am horribly offended at your guests opinion about the reality of veteran's troubles.

They aren't facing anything new? Well, that may indeed be true, I'm not going to aggrandize the differences between what was once called 'shell shock' v.s. what we now call 'PTSD'. New name for an old woe? Yes! But aren't we now smarter? Aren't we now more educated and more aware of all the troubles that veterans face? Because many WWII/Korea/Vietnam veterans once committed suicide or harmed themselves or their families, does that mean we should abandon the current veterans to their fates? Allow them and their familes to suffer the very same symptoms and results of their devotion to duty, honor and country? Are we now to abandon them to their own private hells because they are not all that different from WWII Veterans (two uncles and my father), Korean War Veterans (another uncle), Vietnam Veterans, (too many of my friends to name)... Are the current Veterans to be left as we left those Veterans?

I'm sickened by your guest's stance dismissing the Veteran's rights as he did.

Sent by Deborah F. Kaczmarek, USAF, Retired | 2:52 PM | 5-19-2008

The Conservative movement is not dead. It's been disenfranchised by the Hamiltonians that have a strangle-hold on the Republican Party.
These idealogs have a real bad case of "shoot-themselves-in-the-foot-itis" and they refuse to face up that fact.

The Jeffersonians are abandoning the "R" Party in droves because they are being driven away by the Party leadership.

Sent by C. Heath | 2:57 PM | 5-19-2008

One "conservative" commentator just said that a Democratic administration would "massively raise taxes". I've heard only two concrete examples:

1) raising the threshold on the social security tax (so single wage earners are taxed on a larger part of their wages, not just the first $102,000)
2) raising the capital gains tax to pre-Bush levels of about 20%

Is it just me, or is this just a policy of paying your fair share? It sounds more like equality in the tax code to me. People who criticize these two points are usually not middle class. When Republicans complain about taxes all I hear is some of them getting richer and richer while the rest of us fall further behind.

Sent by Raoul | 2:58 PM | 5-19-2008

Prohibition is still going as the drug war, and is costing scores of billions a year in enforcement, imprisonment, and alienation. Regulate and tax, or would that violate individual rights?

Sent by Daniel | 3:07 PM | 5-19-2008

Hypocrisy. Stupidity. Deception. I'm conservative, and I'm a Democrat. I believe in a balanced budget and I believe in staying out of people's personal lives. I believe in separation of church and state. I have always owned guns, and like them. I believe in staying out of foreign civil wars, in never getting involved in foreign conflict without absolutely being certain of the necessity.

The Republicans of 2008 preach morality, yet revoke basic rights; call it "The Patriot Act." Preach freedom, yet restrict the rights of those who are different sexually. Call it "defense of marriage." Send boys off to fight, die, or suffer unspeakable injuries without recompense. Call it "volunteerism." Blame unemployment on illegals, then offer the farm, gardening, and housekeeping jobs to those "real Americans" who need work.

Those calling for smaller government should simply take a moment and try to find an office in which there are people available to serve their needs. Social security, the IRS, etc. Call a national park and see if you can get campground reservations. Government's broken. Lower taxes, higher deficits, greedy politicians, political action committees . . . and much more.

Sent by Kathy | 3:11 PM | 5-19-2008

I had to pull over when listening to the woman Congressman and the 2 other guests. Its not policies that makes the Repubs. at odds its the endless and old approach to political discourse. Not one fact was true and their discourse was consistently about instilling fear, divisiveness and lies. This is what the Party stands for. I seek an honest leader who stands for solving problems, intellectually understanding the issues and providing an honest word for all Americans

Sent by Edward Thomas | 3:22 PM | 5-19-2008

Ms. Kaczmarek, thank you for your eloquent comment, and thank you and your father for your service. I share your outrage at this Republican pose of false innocence in implying that there would be some sort of fairness in treating today's veterans exactly as those of earlier times were treated, despite the many advances in knowledge, particularly in the treatment of PTSD. My World War II vet father unloaded ammunition ships at European ports in the advance wave of U.S. invasions and experienced over 300 bombings. I always knew what was meant by "war nerves." I would have to say he was one of the lucky ones because he was able to function well in society. In today's world, it is nothing short of criminal to shove aside all those who are suffering.

Sent by Stephanie Tramdack Cash, CFA | 3:31 PM | 5-19-2008

I think te GOP's biggest problem is your guest's attitude: Arrogance!

Sent by Bria Rosas | 3:35 PM | 5-19-2008

What destroyed the Republican party is simple. George Bush and the "neo-conservatives". They who never went to war themselves thought they could do war on the cheap... The party leaders think the solution to everything is cutting taxes and government spending, but have wasted $Billions in Iraq. Vin Weber's comment on the radio regarding caring for Vets was so typical. The disabilities effecting war vets is going to cost the nation highly; if the government cuts funding it doesn't make the problem go away. Ditto for health care, education, etc.

Although I don't agree with a lot of their views, former Republicans like Kevin Phillips and Lincoln Chafee could tell listeners what went wrong with the GOP, not someone like Vin Weber who is part of the problem and so inside of the GOP bubble he has no idea what it is like in the real world. Yes, high taxes on those who labor for their income is a problem, but there was no reason to reduce taxes on Bill Gates' dividend income or estate taxes, especially since most of his wealth has never been taxed.

As a Republican who "hated" Bill Clinton, I never thought I would be nostalgic for the time when he was president and Republicans had control of congress. Thankfully, once Bush is out of office, then the Republicans can start rebuilding the party. Until very recently, any Republican who criticized Bush was chastised, and that made things worse. John McCain is step in the correct direction, but it is unfortunate he is caving in to things like making the tax cut permanent when he originally voted against them.

Sent by Bob in Salem, Oregon | 3:38 PM | 5-19-2008

Mary, the car dealership owner must have a sales lot full of SUVs to be so frustrated. Just a guess, her family has had the dealership for a couple generations and pollution from the transportaion system we developed via subsidies and cost shifting has not been a concern in her family for quite some time. Possibley all the government subsidies that have benefittied the automobile industry over the last 60 years just are not cutting it anymore.
She described a desire for a universal health care sysem as a potential black hole of government spending. Most observations would support the notion that the current system is "the" black hole - it costs more and delivers less than all others, is absorbing its share of GNP 50% faster than inflation or population growth. The only other black hole as destructive, currently, is probable Iraq. Wasting tax dollars is not owned by any party. No bid multi billion dollar contract anyone?

Vin Weber added that universal health would reduce choices. How does circumventing insurance companies, providing a larger pool of payers and beneficiaries (adding those that can get care now under extreemly inefficient situations and losses) reduce choices? Conservatives should get past their own story (univeral= socialism, is anti free market and would not allow choice), non of that tripe has anything to do with developing a system that includes everyone. They need to participate in crafting a universal delivery health system so choice is assured. Choice is good thing, go for it.
The health care providers in this country will do very well, still getting paid, still competing, still inovating, but not having to use as much time negotiating, mailing, circumventing and staffing communication with the present system of hundreds of 3rd party payers. Providers will also no longer need to charge those with insurance for the cost of those that do not but still get some care. We may then get closer to what things actually cost. On the other hand I agree we have a wonderful health delivery system. Im sure the 4 of every 5 Americans that have convenient access to it would agree. I think we can all agree in Ann Rand terms that the other 20% should be able to take their repsonsiliby for preserving the present system more seriously and not complain, better yet not show up in the nations ERs. If they weaken in thier resolve to preserve the present system we can offer them the courage and certitude we have acquired from our dogmas and ideologies. They can soldier on so most of us can use and preserve the current black hole without distractions.

Sent by Bill Guse | 3:59 PM | 5-19-2008

You had a caller who said she was a car dealer and her big worry was illegal immigration at some meat packing plant.I wonder if she's ever checked the green cards of the people who do her yard work.

Sent by Don Seman | 4:06 PM | 5-19-2008

I agree with those who say the Republicans need to start by losing the arrogance. (After the last 8 years, what do they have to be arrogant about?)

Ron Paul was on last week. Political philosophy aside, compare the way he answers questions to the way today's guests answered them. He was just more respectful. When Vin Weber dropped out of office, he became a lobbyist. When Ron Paul is out office, he delivers babies.

Sorry, "Republic" Party. You had your chance with Dr. Paul and you treated him like an intruder.

Enjoy the next four years. I think most of you will have a chance to work on that golf game while the Democrats have a chance to prove they are just as inept as you guys.

Sent by Dave Henning, Chandler, AZ | 5:00 PM | 5-19-2008

You often introduce your guests, such as Vin Weber today, as a 'lobbyist'. I think it would be very informative if you could give a very brief list of their clients. Is it the Sierra Club or Lockheed Martin etc.

Thanks for the excellent programs.

Sent by w hofmann | 5:06 PM | 5-19-2008

They've lost their way! Boo hoo! If Marsha Blackburn is a guest on the program again, I think she should elaborate on why republics think working women will have more time at home if our air and water are dirtier and the workplace more dangerous and hostile. I suppose dirtier air and water could lead to more sickness and a more dangerous workplace could result in more injuries on the job which could result in more working women staying at home without pay and health insurence. Of course lower taxes could only help the EPA and OSHA in not doing the jobs they were created to do - protecting the environment and the health and safety of women and men on the job.

Yes indeed, we need more of those roll up their sleeves republics to get to work for the American people!

Sent by John S West Jordan, Utah | 7:52 PM | 5-19-2008

GOP's total lack of concern for the domestic population, flat funding for AIDS services, Katrina fiasco, attempt to privatize Social Security etc. the Jack Abramoff corruption, the outing with impunity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, the truly sleazy corruptions of Bob Allen and Larry Craig in sex scandals of the most lurid type, the wholesale giveaway of the Treasury to war profiteers and Big Pharma (HOW can you claim to restrict government spending and then take away the government's ability to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare and Medicaid!!??!??)
Good Start lets continue the list:
Politicization of the Justice Department,
degredation of most of our environmental laws,
polarization of the country,
saying they support the troops but let things like Walter Reed go on as well as voting down increased funding to the GI bill,
Allowing deregulation of the Media so now most of the media is controlled by Rupert Merdoch and about 4 other people,
Politicization of Petagon defense analysts which FEEDS INCORRECT KNOWLEGE TO THE CONGRESS AND AMERICAN PEOPLE,
Destroying Americas national image within 8 years,
Strengthening the terrorist and "rogue states" by flawnting international laws and destroying our national image.(Talking with our enemies isn't the same as negotiating with them!!),
Not signing on to the keyoto Treaty

The list goes on and on.
Even though the list of wrongs is huge the Republicans arn't the only ones to blame because the democates watched them do all of this for 8 years!! So I think both parties have alot to attone for and alot to change.

Sent by Nathan Fleishhacker | 10:39 PM | 5-19-2008

I was shocked and dismayed at the free range Mr. Conan allowed his guests on the 5/19 segment regarding the Republican party.

I do not need to go into the litany of Republican policy failures in the House, Senate, White House and various regulatory agencies, nor do I need to recount the various scandals due to abuses of power in the same, nor the cronyism, nor the massive and dangerous privatization of government functions, nor massive Federal government expansion with creation of Homeland Security, nor the much-enlarged revolving door of office holder/lobbyist (your guest Vin Weber), nor the badly-managed wars, nor.... You get the picture.

So, where in the name of descent journalism was Mr. Conan? Your guests were barely challenged as they trotted out talking point after talking point. The conversation was bland, bereft of ideas, and loaded with blatant propaganda. I have never experienced such paradox-- fury and boredom! Mr. Conan did nothing to shape the program nor provide contrast. It was a total giveaway. And (most outrageous if it is true) you seemed to block out callers who would have been more challenging. Fair? Balanced? Talk of the nation? Or talk of some of the nation?

I was shocked and outraged. There is just too much at stake and too much that deserves close scrutiny for you to waste an opportunity for real muscular discussion. It was as if President Bush and Karl Rove did not exist. And it was as if the influence of this presidency will not remain after he has left office. Atrocious.

Sent by Doug | 12:36 PM | 5-20-2008

It's funny, but just a few years ago, the republic party adamantly informed me that George W Bush was even more qualified for the job of President than John McCain... I say 'no thanks' to any further rebranded spew from these cons.

Sent by zig | 1:36 PM | 5-20-2008