what does it mean to be a conservative anymore?
With the Iraq war, the rise of Christian fundamentalism, exploding government spending, soaring debt, insecure borders, and an executive branch with greater and greater power, Republicans and conservatives are debating this question with more and more urgency.
The contradictions keep mounting. Today's conservatives support the idea of limited government, but they have increased government's size, power, and reach to new heights. They believe in balanced budgets, but they have boosted government spending, debt, and pork to record levels. They believe in individual liberty and the rule of law, but they have condoned torture, ignored laws passed by Congress, and been indicted for bribery. They have substituted religion for politics, and damaged both.
In The Conservative Soul, Andrew Sullivan, one of the nation's leading political commentators, makes an impassioned call to rescue conservatism from the excesses of the Republican far right, which risks making the GOP the first fundamentally religious party in American history. Through an incisive look at the rise of Western fundamentalism, Sullivan argues that conservatives cannot in good conscience keep supporting a party that believes in its own God-given mission to change people's souls, instead of protecting their liberties. He carefully charts the arguments of the new conservatism, showing why they cannot work in today's America, why they fail the test of logic and pragmatism, and why they betray the conservative tradition from Edmund Burke to Ronald Reagan.
In this bold and powerful book, Andrew Sullivan criticizes our government for acting too often, too quickly, and too expensively. He champions a political philosophy based on skepticism and reason, rather than certainty and fundamentalism. He defends a Christianity that is sincere but not intolerant, and a politics that respects religion by keeping its distance. And he makes a provocative, heartfelt case for a revived conservatism at peace with the modern world, dedicated to restraining government and empowering individuals to live rich and fulfilling lives.
As editor of the New Republic and on his blog The Daily Dish, Sullivan has been a major conservative voice in U.S. politics for 15 years. Now, he attempts "to account for what one individual person means by conservatism"--not repudiating his former political beliefs but trying to "rescue" modern U.S. political conservatism from "the current [Christian] fundamentalist supremacy" that now dominates it. Sullivan (Love Undetectable) has a breezy, readable style that allows him to address such diverse issues as religious fundamentalism's reliance on "the literal words of the Bible," the "excessive witch-hunt" surrounding Clinton, and the secular Enlightenment foundations of the Constitution. He's most approachable when he writes autobiographically through a critical lens--"Looking back I see this phase of my faith life as a temporary and neurotic reaction to a new and bewildering school environment." But that reflection is not as readily apparent when he makes sweeping pronouncements on politics ("post-modern discourse... opposed basic notions of Western freedom: of speech, of trade, of religion"). Much of the book is a meditation on his own evolving faith as a devout Catholic and will appeal most to readers interested in personal religious evolution. (Oct. 3)
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October 08, 2007
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