I gather from some of the correspondence I’ve received about The Conscience of a Liberal — mainly, I think, from people who’ve heard me on the radio but haven’t yet read the book — that there’s some confusion over the book’s theory of modern American politics. Some people seem to think that I’m saying that racism and the other issues I classify as “weapons of mass distraction” are what movement conservatism is about. They aren’t.Yep. The Theocons have caught on, too. That's why Rudy is catching such hell from 'em. They think he'll pay lip service and then run away as fast as he can.
What the movement is about is economics: the core goal is, as Heritage says in its fundraising letters, to roll back the New Deal and the Great Society — or as Grover Norquist puts it, to get things back to the way they were “up until Teddy Roosevelt, when the socialists took over.”
Race and other distractions aren’t the goal, they’re a tactic — they’re how an anti-populist movement wins elections.
The 2004 election was a perfect example. Bush won by portraying himself as the nation’s defender against gay married terrorists — then, immediately after the election, declared that privatizing Social Security was his first priority.
Though I would caution Paul not to overstate the role of economics in the movement. There is a social component as well, but it has far less to do with forwarding religion and far more to do with making "conservatism" the only acceptable political position within American society, with all that that entails.
(Chiefly the dominance of father figures in society, as Lakoff pointed out. If they just cared about low taxes and meritocracy, they'd be Libertarians. Ron Paul's pathetically low poll numbers show they aren't.)
It also involves a very, very expensive type of foreign policy based on American triumphalism. That also distinguishes American conservatism from other brands, including its Continental namesake. You shouldn't forget that, either.