The New Foundation versus "fresh energy"


The Square Deal, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier, the Great Society and . . . the New Foundation? Political junkies will recognize these slogans from the Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson administrations, but what about that last slogan? You guessed it: Barack Obama tried to define his administration as the New Foundation. Although the phrase didn't stick, he continues to try to remake the country. But what about the conservatives? Do they need a new foundation? Some newcomers to the national political scene don't think so.

Now that the critical 2010 election season is kicking off, it would be good for conservatives to read historian George Nash's latest book Reappraising the Right: The Past & Future of American Conservatism. Nash titles the last chapter of his book "How Firm a Foundation? The Prospects for American Conservatism."

How firm is the conservative foundation? Reading Nash, one may conclude that the foundation weakened, ironically, with the fall of European-Soviet communism in 1989 and under the leadership of George W. Bush. Since its birth in the mid-1940s, the conservative movement was generally united by the "external" threats (meaning external to the conservative movement) of Soviet communism and American liberalism. With Soviet communism on the ash heap of history and George W. Bush succeeding Bill Clinton, conservatives were faced with an internal threat for the first time---Bush's big government policies. With Bush out and Obama in, conservatives are back to a fight they're good at: battling an external enemy in the form of the Obama administration.

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Obama said he wants a new American foundation and polling data seem to indicate that most Americans aren't buying it and neither is Ed Franz. This plain-speaking, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment Republican is a blue collar union member and a 24-year General Electric employee from Erie, Pa. He's a blend of the three traditional elements of conservatism: He's an economic and religious conservative and he believes in a strong national defense. Franz told me Saturday that he's running for Pennsylvania's 3rd Congressional District seat, which is currently held by Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper.

Franz is what Nash might describe as "fresh energy": A term Nash used to describe Sarah Palin. "[I]t does appear significant that in the fiery furnace of political and cultural contention this autumn [2008], an insurgent spirit has returned to American conservatism." Nash wrote. "If this persists, it will likely buttress the movement's foundations."

Win or lose, Franz, and other 2010 newcomers like him, could strengthen conservatism's foundations, which may end up putting some cracks in the New Foundation.

Lee Wishing
Lee Wishing

Lee is the administrative director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.


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