Principalities & Powers

The Survival Issue

Long ago in March 1989, in the first column I wrote for this space, I noted that President George Bush shared with only one other American chief executive (namely, Martin Van Buren) the distinction of having been elected to the White House from the office of the Vice-President. I also commented that "the lackluster record of Andrew Jackson's successor perhaps does not inspire confidence about the new administration," a remark that, generously interpreted, might be considered a prediction of Mr. Bush's defeat four years later. But even with all the generosity that Chronicles readers are capable of mustering, it was at best merely a tongue-in-cheek prophecy. Just think what I could prognosticate if I ever got serious.

One serious prediction that wafts up from the tea leaves of the 1992 election is that American conservatism, at least in the form in which it has been known since it first began to materialize in the late 1940's and early 1950's, is now defunct, and you don't need to be a swami to understand why it died. The Bush administration and Mr. Bush's defeat delivered the coup de grace to the organized American right, even though the terminal signs had been evident for some time. In the days after the election, of course, a squadron of professional conservatives delivered themselves of all the reasons why the Republican loss of the White House was really a tremendous victory, but no one...

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