The "principled old conservative is disgusted with Republicans today" column practically writes itself. But this entry from former Congressman Mickey Edwards is frankly baffling. The problem Mickey has with modern conservatives is that they are... too European.
Edwards has a sterling "serious old conservative" resume: Republican congressman, former American Conservative Union chairman, stints at the Kennedy School and Princeton's Woodrow Wilson school, VP of the Aspen Institute, hundreds of task forces, and, of course, something involving Brookings.
Edwards' essay, posted at The Atlantic, is ostensibly an answer to the (unasked?) question of why he's skipping this year's Conservative Political Action Conference. Of course, it is because Conservatives today are not like the Good Conservatives of His Day!
There are like five completely incompatible and contradictory different arguments in this column. Like, Edwards certainly has a point about the contempt Bush-era conservatives have for Civil Liberties! He is certainly right to be put off by Limbaugh and Beck and find defenses of torture to be incredibly unconservative! But he can't quite diagnose the source of the problem, here:
I don't begrudge these activists their views and they are entitled to use the term "conservative" to describe themselves if they so choose. But the views many of them profess have little in common with the distinctly American kind of conservatism that gave birth to CPAC and the modern American conservative movement. Instead, what many of today's self-proclaimed "conservatives" proclaim is an ideology borrowed from what Donald Rumsfeld famously dismissed as "old Europe."
The Conservative Movement of Teabaggers and Torture and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh is too European? The god-and-guns fundies who make up almost the entirety of the GOP base is apparently a bit French for Edwards' tastes. It gets weirder:
What distinguished modern American conservatism was that it had its roots not in the British kings, but in John Locke and Adam Smith and other champions of individual liberties and individual empowerment.
Ok, but... Smith was a Scot and Locke was a Brit. I mean, Mickey... what the hell are you talking about?
According to Mickey, the Conservatism he served for so many years was about Liberty and Limited Government. Of course the modern conservative movement that apparently scares him so much is just the logical end point of the real philosophy of 20th Century Republicans. This is conservatism of Jim Crow and the Southern Strategy and States Rights, and the people in charge of the movement now are the exact same people who were in charge of the movement when Edwards was chairing task forces in the Reagan era.
But, yeah—too European! That's the problem with Birchers and Brietbart.