USA | Det har skrivits spaltmeter om den intellektuella utarmning som drabbat republikanska partiet. Kanske heter räddningen Yuval Levin och National Affairs.
Sam Tanenhaus, The New York Times Magazine, skriver om Levin och andra konservativa som många nu hoppas skall blåsa nytt liv i den ideologiska debatten inom Republican Party.
Det skall bli intressant och se om partiets republikanska presidentkandidater kommer att kunna leverera något mer än det man redan vet entusiasmerar redan ideologiskt övertygade gräsrötter.
“When intellectuals can do nothing else, they start a magazine.” Or so goes the famous line by Irving Howe, the beau ideal of the politically engaged writer and a founder of the left-wing intellectual magazine Dissent. His heirs include Yuval Levin.
After Obama’s sweeping victory in 2008, Levin was one of many conservative intellectuals who, as he put it to me this past March, “were trying to figure out what the hell this new world looked like.” He had been writing for National Review and The Weekly Standard, but they are political journals, and Levin saw an urgent need on the right for serious policy ideas. Out of this came National Affairs, the quarterly he founded and continues to edit, with a small staff, out of his office at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a think tank “dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.” As Levin said: “The magazine tries to sit at the intersection of political ideas and public policy. That’s where a lot of the action has to happen. You have to persuade conservatives and voters in general. And you need to have a coherent vision underlying a policy agenda.”
Rather than blame the media agitators and congressional extremists for his party’s lack of substance, Levin said on a recent panel devoted to “the future of conservatism” that “the policy vacuum on the right itself has been the fault for a long time of people like us.”
He envisions not just a shrinking or scaling-back of government, but an entire reimagining of it. He accuses both parties of being filled with pork-hungry “appropriators” who still think of Washington, even in these gridlocked years, as the lavish dispenser of services. Debates today — about “runaway spending,” about big versus limited government — reduce, in most instances, to haggling over how much to dispense and who gets what. A true Burkean conservatism, Levin argues, would recast the federal government as the facilitator and supporter of local institutions who are a function of, and a contributor to, a “civil society.” “The agenda is not a moderate agenda,” Levin told me. “It’s a very conservative agenda, more so than a lot of what’s going on in our politics that’s argued at a different pitch and so might seem like it’s more radical.”
The next presidential election may not seem a long way off. This was also the case when the last true policy revolution happened on the right. In 1979, members of the upstart Heritage Foundation, then only six years old, recruited some 250 scholars, Beltway policy-thinkers and Capitol Hill staff members to draw up a blueprint, department by department, for the next conservative president. They formed small teams and met in the evenings and on weekends. Experts in every facet of government operations, from the size of the Navy to the intricacies of the tax code, were assigned to propose laws and programs in accordance with conservative doctrine. “These were ideas that had been around since Barry Goldwater, and some even predated him, went back to the 1950s,” Lee Edwards, who participated in the project, told me recently.
In 1980, further inspired by Ronald Reagan’s decision to seek the nomination, the teams started piecing together their proposals into a giant rethinking of government. “It took about 10 months to have it ready,” Edwards recalled. Completed just before Election Day, the 3,000-page manifesto was titled “Mandate for Leadership: Policy Management in a Conservative Administration.” Shortly after Reagan’s landslide victory, Heritage officials carried copies of the mandate to the Hay-Adams Hotel, where they had arranged a secret meeting with Edwin Meese III, the head of Reagan’s transition team. Soon after, the mandate was published as a book, with some 2,000 specific policy recommendations. It became a Beltway best seller as well as a scorecard for the Reagan years. “Later, we calculated something like two-thirds were adopted in whole or in part,” Edwards said. Some — like Reagan’s 1981 tax cut and his decision to greatly enlarge the Navy fleet, as well as his decision to fire striking air traffic controllers — entered presidential annals.
“Conservatives acting like radicals” is how Edwards described the creators of the mandate. “We were going for basic changes.”
Many in Washington policy circles are familiar with the legend of the “Mandate for Leadership.” Yuval Levin, typically, has actually studied it. “It’s very impressive,” he told me last month. “But at this point, I wouldn’t say we’ve got a specific project of that scale in mind — maybe we’ll just dump five years of National Affairs on the table.”
Tidskriftsomslag: The New York Times Magazine den 6 juli 2014.