June 28, 2002
A new conservative movement?
An interesting critique by of a "new and possibly influential strain in American political discourse" from the left by Michael Tomasky in the American Prospect as he explores who is Roger Hertog, the man "starting up a long-shot New York daily and funding The New Republic. But Hertog doesn't see himself as the vanguard of a new conservative movement -- yet." Excerpts:
Why would Steinhardt, a Democrat who essentially seeded and watered the Progressive Policy Institute, the think-tank appendage of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), want to finance a newspaper that will have the Sun's conservative politics? Why would Hertog, a man of the right and chairman of the Manhattan Institute, the prominent conservative think tank, want a piece of the liberal (more than not, anyway) New Republic? Why, aside from the obvious relief of financial stress, would TNR owner Martin Peretz reduce himself to a minority interest in the magazine he's supported for 28 years?
The answer may be best expressed not by Hertog, Steinhardt, or Peretz, but by Seth Lipsky, editor of the Sun and a man whose decade-long dream of starting a new New York daily is finally coming to fruition. "The right wing of the Democratic Party," Lipsky told me recently, "is a depressed stock." Interesting that it took a journalist to produce the apposite business metaphor. And though the reference to party label shouldn't be taken too literally, Lipsky is describing both the certain ideological niche of the Sun and a likely trajectory of the Hertog-Steinhardt New Republic with some precision. It's exactly on the right-most edge of the Democratic cliff -- where the DLC begins to morph into, say, the American Enterprise Institute; where neoliberalism and neoconservatism, each of which is a vestigial presence now in the twenty-first century, collapse into some new entity that doesn't yet have a fully formed identity, or a name -- that these four men meet, despite having arrived by vastly different paths. ...
But if the concurrence of these events has any larger meaning, it's that they give rise to a new and possibly influential strain in American political discourse. If one were to take Hertog, Steinhardt, Peretz, and Lipsky's politics and put them in a centrifuge, the substance that would emerge would be as follows: It would be explicitly neither Democratic nor Republican. It would be right of center, especially on foreign policy (and most especially on Israel). It would be right of center, too, on a good number of domestic questions. But because it would pay some obeisance to the New Deal and even (sometimes) to the Great Society, which neoconservatism refuted thoroughly, and because it would purport to care deeply about poor people of color -- Hertog is messianic on the topic of vouchers and calls urban education "the civil rights issue of this generation" -- it would stand quite apart from, say, the obstreperous conservatism of a Tom DeLay. Indeed, it would claim its roots in a historic pragmatic liberalism that today's wandering liberals, this gang of four would argue, have cashiered out of slavish devotion to quota queens and teachers' unions. So it would fancy itself a truer liberalism. Lipsky, who was a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board and believes that the Journal's former editorial-page editor Robert Bartley "is pretty much spot on" regarding policy questions, is also a registered Democrat who voted twice for Bill Clinton.