Mark Steyn: Recovering The Right In the wake of this last election, many conservatives have insisted that America is still a center-right country. They attribute the defeat of November's elections to the Bush administration's "betrayal" of conservatives with deficit spending and foreign adventures. Columnist Mark Steyn tells host Scott Simon why he doubts that the Republican Party can win the next election even if it reclaims its basic principles.

Mark Steyn: Recovering The Right

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

We're going to turn now to columnist, author and musical theater critic Mark Steyn, who writes for his own Web site, National Review and many other publications. His most recent book is "America Alone." Mr. Steyn, thanks for being with us.

Mr. MARK STEYN (Columnist and Musical Theater Critic; Author, "America Alone"): Pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: Many conservatives, in the wake of this last election, have been saying that they still believe America is a center-right country, that the Bush administration betrayed conservative principles with deficit spending and foreign adventures, and if they just reclaim what they think of as basic conservative principles, they could win the next election. You write a column this week that expresses skepticism on that.

Mr. STEYN: Yes. I am not convinced that the election we just fought is one you would find in a center-right country. Both campaigns were demonizing Wall Street fat cats and offering lollipops to the electorate - unaffordable lollipops, in my view. I've seen countries that introduced these policies in Europe. I've lived in countries that introduced these policies. They're unsustainable and unaffordable, and I think the minimum we're entitled to expect from a conservative candidate and a Republican candidate is that he understands that. John McCain didn't, in large part.

SIMON: Is there a split - or let me put it this way. I guess there is a split. How deep is the split between fiscal and political conservatives and religious groups that have really helped the Republican Party to victory over the past generations?

Mr. STEYN: Well, I think President Reagan got it right, that there are three stools - three legs to the coalition. There's the fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and national security conservatives, and all three legs of this stool have kind of come apart at the moment. I mean, a lot of fiscal conservatives and social conservatives were never on board with the Bush rationale for war, for example.

But I think you can tie them together. I mean, I think clearly, when you look at the economic crisis, as we were hearing just a moment ago about three chief executives flying in on private jets to demand money from taxpayers, I think you can say that there's a moral component to the economic crisis. There's a moral component to this mortgage crisis that ought to be able to reconcile fiscal and social conservatives on the idea. Nobody says we all have to be in church bowing down to this or that particular minister, but there is a moral component to the failures of the economy in recent times.

SIMON: Mr. Steyn, this month we observed the centenary of Alistair Cooke, the great journalist who wrote and recorded his "Letter from America" for the BBC for so many years. You knew this dapper and articulate man at the BBC, and I wonder if you could share some thoughts and recollections of him this week.

Mr. STEYN: Well, Alistair was a marvelous writer and sometimes, as I'm sure you know, Scott, if you make your living as a broadcaster, people don't appreciate that. He had a tremendous punch and vigor to his writing. And there's a book of his that I particularly like, which he wrote at the beginning of the Second World War just traveling around the United States, and what he captures there is the vast energy and dynamism of the United States.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. STEYN: And if you compare the way, for example, he observed the entire country turning on a dime to put itself on a wall footing in 1941 with the sclerosis that afflicted government after September 11th, I think you can say that there are some - have been some changes across the last 70 years that would not have been encouraging to him.

SIMON: He really loved America, didn't he?

Mr. STEYN: I think he did. And I think he loved it for the same principles that a lot of us foreigners do. It's a big, messy country. It's hard to make generalizations about it. On the one hand, it seems very prudish, and on the other hand, it seems wildly debauched. And I think that's because America's a big space that lets a lot of people live according to their own ways, and that's part of the great strength of it.

SIMON: Thanks so much, Mark Steyn.

Mr. STEYN: My pleasure.

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