(Yes, that means that I'm riffing off of a reporter's version of what political scientists are saying. Oh well; he's a good reporter, and I ain't there. So it goes).
At any rate, what Skowronek was saying is that the conservative movement:
has become increasingly constitutional in scope, which challenges government-driven solutions in principle, which seeks to dislodge American government from the accumulated policy commitments and offers to establish a whole new standard for legitimate action in its place. Today's progressives may cast themselves as an insurgency to redirect government after years of conservative dominance. But the situation may be quite different. Republicans may have become a kind of permanent insurgency.I think that's mostly correct, and I very much agree with Klein's reaction:
Liberals tend to underestimate how much they have accomplished, and how much ground conservatives have ceded, over the course of the 20th century, and even into the beginning of the 21st. Liberals tell themselves a narrative in which the last few decades have been dominated by conservatives, but conservatives look around and see a state that has been substantially shaped by liberals.What I guess I'd add, and of course I don't know what else Skowronek was saying, is that I see quite a bit of complexity in movement conservativism. Part of it is a more-or-less principled, but at any rate fairly specific, preference for an entirely different way of governing the US, what Skowronek would call a different regime (it's a word I'm not eager to use, but I think it fits here). Then there's another part of it which appears to be based almost entirely on, well, fiction. I don't know how else to put it...take, for example all the stuff you here about "apology tour" and "exceptionalism." That's a major part of GOP campaign rhetoric right now, and it's all just full, 100%, fiction. It's not just rhetoric, either; there are quite a few policy debates that seem fully planted in fiction. And then on top of it all, you have plenty of normal opportunism, such as the 2010 GOP electoral campaign against Medicare cuts.
Of course, you expect plenty of mishmash in any US political party, or even in any ideological movement. What does strike me, however, is how little hard work I've seen from those movement conservatives who do fantasize about some sort of pre-New Deal, or pre-Wilson, ideal. I don't get any sense that anyone has thought through what exactly they're looking for, or how they would confront the various difficulties that their preferred regime would no doubt face. No, I'm not looking for anyone, and certainly not candidates, to have a fully developed, fine-tuned agenda, but if we're to take any of this seriously as a real political program (and not just a combination of fiction and opportunism), it would be nice to see some of it. I think that's what Will Wilkerson is getting to in his attack on Ron Paul in TNR.
I'm not sure exactly where to go with this, other than to say that I do think that it's worth taking movement conservatives quite seriously...but there's a real risk of taking them more seriously than they take themselves.