Tod Lindberg joined the Progressive Studies Program this week for the third installment of the spring Progressivism on Tap series. Lindberg, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and editor of Policy Review, provided listeners with a glimpse into the mind of a conservative intellectual as he discussed everything from his perspective on the Bush presidency to the Tea Party movement. He offered a candid discussion on what the conservative movement should focus on in order to regain power and win new constituencies, while acknowledging the tension within the party about which ideas and leaders should represent them in upcoming elections.
Lindberg admitted to “internal contradictions” existing within the movement’s ideology, and to “no real sense of unity of purpose.” But he said conservatives are unified behind certain issues such as the war on terrorism. He also argued that conservatives are no longer demoralized like they were after President Obama first won office. He believes that President Obama’s window of opportunity with independent voters has closed after a year of drawn out legislative battles, most notably over health care reform. Lindberg argued that conservatives can win upcoming elections if they stick to economic arguments and focus on controlling spending.
Stepping back to a more political philosophical level, Lindberg also addressed the differences in overall political approach that separates conservatives from progressives. Conservatives, Lindberg argued, will never be a movement of “identity politics;” in fact, when conservatives do lapse into this focus, it often brings out some of the movement’s worst characteristics. In contrast, progressives believe in the importance of reaching out to specific demographics within this country and that public policy should directly address the concerns and issues of these demographics.
Progressives must be prepared to address conservative pushback and ideology because, as Lindberg noted, America is not a country of static politics. If progressives want to continue winning on the level they did in 2008, they must persuade moderate Americans that the big policy reforms of 2010, from health care to immigration to energy, are in their best interests now and in the future. Lindberg’s bet is that this will be very difficult to do. But the next few years will tell us whether the conservative take on the Obama era is correct or not.