American Conservatism, 230, dead after lengthy illness
American Conservatism, a school of political thought whose claimed adherents included figures ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan to current president George W. Bush, was pronounced dead Friday after long battles with a number of diseases. Though historians differ on Conservatism's exact age, most estimate that it was somewhere between 169 and 230 years old.
Doctors formally declared the ideology dead after Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican once thought to be fairly resolute opponent to the current administration's claims on unlimited executive power, proposed a Senate bill that would not only render legal the administration's warrantless-wiretapping program legal but would also retroactively give amnesty to anyone who had engaged in illegal wiretapping going back to 1978. That expansion of presidential powers appeared not only unprecedented in modern American history, but in the history of conservatism and the Republican Party as well, which until now had repudiated the idea of a monolithic central government with expansive powers.
However, the doctors also said Specter's fatal move toward greater executive power was merely the latest in a lengthy string of debilitating failures regarding Conservatism's core principles, many of which dated back to the weeks and months following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States but some of which went back much further.
Among the most damaging of these was the massive growth of discretionary government spending over the last five years, which severely damaged Conservatism's claim to a doctrine of small government and minimal spending. Conservatism had battled with this disease as far back as 1981, but doctors said the growth seemed to have gone into remission and receded in the late 1990s. However, the mass began growing again shortly after George W. Bush's inauguration in 2001, and increased in size by nearly 45 percent before Conservatism finally succumbed.
The ideology was also damaged by a lengthy addiction to the religious right. Acquaintances say that Conservatism became so dependent on right-wing evangelicals that it sold out nearly all of its small-government, libertarian impulses, such as keeping the government out of citizens' private lives and not dictating their medical decisions, among others. Conservatism carried on an embarrassingly public dalliance with Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman at the center of a vocal death-with-dignity controversy last year, and at the time of its death had reportedly relapsed into another fixation with the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Perhaps most tragic are the rumors that Conservatism was abandoned by many of its former adherents in the months leading up to its death, and passed away surrounded by only a very small cadre of devoted friends. Former companions such as President Bush, blogger Glenn Reynolds, talk-show host Rush Limbaugh and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin not only deserted Conservatism late in its life but went so far as to criticize loyal friends such as William F. Buckley Jr., George Will, and Andrew Sullivan.
"So many people claimed to be [Conservatism's] friend, particularly in 1994 and 1995, right after the Republicans got control of Congress," said one longtime friend. "But then George W. Bush came to town and you started finding out who the true friends were -- one by one they abandoned Conservatism so that they could cozy up to the president, until hardly anyone was left. It would've broken your heart, to have seen Conservatism die almost completely alone like that."
Conservatism is survived by a son, Neoconservatism, 59; a distant cousin, Libertarianism, 149; British Conservatism, 176; and a small circle of loyal friends.
Memorial services will be held Tuesday, November 7 at locations all over the country. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the United States Democratic Party.