This is from the Heritage Foundations. it's well worth reading.
A Crisis Conservatives Shouldn’t Waste
Rahm Emanuel famously admonished his party to never let a crisis go to waste. This advice should come in handy for conservatives, since according to Charles R. Kesler's new book, liberalism is in crisis. By crisis, Kesler doesn’t mean a national emergency that enables the expansion of government. Instead, he means a turning point. He writes in I am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism that liberalism must either go out of business or reinvent itself into something more radical.
Liberalism is in this predicament for philosophical and practical reasons. Philosophically, liberalism rejected eternal truths in favor of the promise of perpetual progress. Over the years, they lost faith in progress and devolved into nihilism. Practically, liberal programs failed to fix society's problems and instead produced huge deficits, debt, and an entitlement crisis. The growth of government is fiscally unsustainable.
To explain how liberalism arrived in this mess, Kesler traces its history. He identifies three waves of political, economic, and cultural transformation.
Woodrow Wilson is the godfather of liberalism. Wilson was the first President to criticize the Constitution openly. There are no self-evident eternal truths that limit government, he argued. Instead, the ends, scope, and role of government evolve according to the times. Since the “human condition improves as history marches forward,” as R.J. Pestritto explains, the protections built into government such as the separation of powers needed to give way towards an evolving, “living Constitution” of expanded governmental powers.
“Not only one of its supreme theorists,” Kesler writes, Wilson was the “principle model” for future progressive leadership. Indeed, Wilson also introduced “leadership” into politics. The Founders were suspicious of the term—“leaders” headed factions and incited revolutions. But, a Wilsonian “leader” articulates a vision of progress and then directs the people to it.
The leader of the second wave, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was the first to fight under the banner of liberalism. FDR's massive electoral and legislative victories made “liberal policies and, even more important, assumptions behind those policies . . . ruling elements in public life."
There is no reason to fear government, he taught, no matter how strong it becomes. That’s because the bigger the government is, the more rights it can grant to people. And FDR had many “rights” to “give”: a right to a good job, a decent home, and protection from the “economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.” These rights were meant to spell security—to free people from necessity and create a new liberal age unmarred by selfishness and materialism. Instead, he created a special interest scramble for more power, benefits, and rights.
Lyndon Johnson launched the third wave of liberalism which devolved into a civil war between the academic-cultural left and the political-reformist left. Essentially, LBJ’s Great Society was supposed to conquer scarcity, poverty, and war, thereby freeing us to make and remake ourselves in accordance with our own desires and will. What resulted was a bigger government that people trusted less. New interest groups developed and warred with the older New Deal-era interest groups. The new academic Left lost faith in Progress and grew suspicious of the old Left, dubbed “the System.”
And that brings us to modern day America under President Obama. In response to an exploding deficit, Obama proposed: more spending. In response to an exploding entitlement crisis, Obama promised: a massive new entitlement. Life of Julia aside, soulless bureaucracies still can’t give meaning to life. And our current President may be cool, but Obama’s life-story is a scant alternative to Liberalism’s now-defunct religion of faith in Progress.
Where liberalism lacks philosophic bearings, conservatism can articulate on the self-evident truths of equality, natural rights, and consent grounded in the Declaration of Independence and institutionalized in the Constitution. Liberalism had a monopoly on social science, but Conservatives broke it and offer policy solutions to address our current predicaments. Kesler wryly notes that Obamacare could have been written by FDR’s brain trust, while conservatives have myriad new policy solutions for health care, entitlements, and welfare state. Our policies are grounded in America’s principles, not excuses to move beyond them.
Yes, liberalism is in crisis. And it's one that conservatives shouldn’t let go to waste.