A few days ago, Dbug wrote a diary titled "The Three Flavors of Republicans," which divided today's Republican Party into three factions: fiscal conservatives (of which libertarians are a subset), religious conservatives, and neoconservatives. I felt this was too simplistic, and Dbug asked me to write a diary on my take. Well, here it is.
I see there being not so much three groups as three scales. The first is traditionalist vs. libertarian; the second is paleoconservative vs. neoconservative; and the third is moderate vs. ideological. I will describe the three scales, and explain how they work, after the jump.
1) traditionalist vs. libertarian
Most conservatives follow elements of both these philosophies, but most prefer one over the other. It all depends on which they value more: tradition or liberty.
By far the most well-known traditionalists are religious conservatives, but not all traditionalists are religious. For example, here is a profile of George Will, an agnostic, in Patrick Allitt's book The Conservatives:
[Will] dismissed [libertarianism] as "decayed Jeffersonianism characterized by a frivolous hostility to the state." He believed that the role of government was to promote virtue in citizens and to nurture a sense of civic community. Citizens should certainly enjoy as much freedom as possible, but government did have claims on them.... Among other things it led Will to argue against upholding gay rights.... On the other hand, it caused him to favor seat-belt laws and federal imposition of improved gas-mileage requirements on Detroit automakers, because government must not consider citizens simply as consumers with the right to decide such things for themselves.
Certain secular principles that conservatives preach (if not always practice) are rooted in traditionalism, such as judicial restraint, constitutional originalism, and federalism. It goes back to the old meaning of "conservative" before it became entangled with capitalism: the desire to conserve, to resist radical change, to keep society bound by its existing rules and institutions, to uphold its customs and traditions. Many libertarians are in fact radicals, and hence not very conservative in a traditional sense, but many others incorporate elements of traditionalism into their worldview.
2) paleoconservative vs. neoconservative
The original neocons were those who became disillusioned with liberalism in the 1960s and 1970s due to the perceived failures of LBJ's Great Society and the left's supposed weak response to Communism. Nowadays the term has come to suggest those who wish to impose their will on other countries, even ones that don't constitute an immediate threat to U.S. interests, for the sake of spreading democracy and human rights. It's almost a hybrid of Wilsonian idealism and the right's Cold War militarism.
For present purposes I'm ignoring all neoconservative views on markets and the welfare state, which blend with factions from the other two scales. I do, however, include in the neocon definition those who advocate curtailing civil liberties for the sake of national security.
Back in the Soviet era neocons and paleocons were hard to tell apart, since both groups generally favored a tough response to Communism. Pat Buchanan's famous dissent from the Gulf War, America's first foreign policy adventure after the collapse of the Soviet Union, signified the paleo/neo split. Buchanan embraced the isolationism of the Old Right, which led him to attack not only both Iraq Wars, but also free trade. On cultural issues such as abortion, gays, and school prayer, Buchanan fits right in with the Falwell-Robertson crowd of Christian conservatives, but on foreign policy he couldn't be more different. Ron Paul has paleocon traits as well; while he supports free trade, his views on foreign policy and immigration are similar to Buchanan's.
3) moderate vs. ideological
Almost by definition, moderates are hard to define. Adding to the difficulty is that one person's moderate is another person's extremist. There are few Republican moderates today in the Nelson Rockefeller mold, and most of those who bear the label at least pay lip service to a conservative philosophy.
Moderates are essentially non-ideological, and will adopt positions from both parties, often favoring a middle ground on individual issues. Prominent moderates include Colin Powell and Arlen Specter, who may not have much in common with each other but have both attempted to forge a vibrant Republican center. In the past year, Powell endorsed a Democrat for president and Specter left the GOP altogether. But this wing of the party, while weakened, is not dead. Not yet, anyway.
I've conceived this system as sort of like the Myers-Briggs personality test, where each scale functions independently of the others. If you're a "traditionalist," for example, you may come out as either a neocon or paleocon, either a moderate or ideological. I might even assign each conservative a letter combination, so that, say, an LPM would be a "libertarian paleocon moderate." This flexibility allows us to recognize that a person's guiding philosophy may vary depending on the issue, even though some combinations are more common than others.
Final thought: how I'd class various conservatives
Here are just a few examples. You can continue with other conservatives if you like, or quarrel with my classifications of these individuals, but I just want to illustrate how my system works. And note that these letters don't take into account the degree each person falls on each scale. For example, Ron Paul would not come out as strongly libertarian as, say, Ayn Rand. With these precautions in mind, here is my (short) list:
David Brooks: TNM
George W. Bush: TNI
Tucker Carlson: LPI
Pat Buchanan: TPI
William F. Buckley: TPI
Dennis Prager: TNI
Arnold Schwarzenegger: LNM
George Will: TPI
Alan Keyes: TNI
Ron Paul: LPI