“Back in the 1960s and 1970s, we’d been fighting to protect the common-sense instincts of ordinary people from elite interference. Now, in the Terri Schiavo euthanasia case, with stem cell research, on gay rights issues, it was we who had become the interfering elite, against a society that was reaching its own new equilibrium.

Of course, that’s not how conservatives saw it. We saw a country divided in two, red states and blue, NASCAR vs. NPR, real America against the phonies in the cities. A movement that had begun as an intellectual one now scornfully pooh-poohed the need for people in government to know anything much at all. But expertise does matter, and the neglect of expertise leads to mismanagement and failure — as we saw in Iraq, in Katrina and in the disregard of warning signals from the financial market. It was under a supposedly pro-market administration that the United States suffered the worst market failure of the post-war era, and that should have sobered us. Instead, we rallied to Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber…

But on environmental issues, we have to follow the evidence where it leads — and on social issues we have to take our society as it is. If the world changes, we have to change with it. The refusal of so many of my fellow conservatives in the United States to adapt their thinking to facts and realities does not demonstrate their adherence to principle. It demonstrates a frivolous indifference to the responsibilities of political leadership.”

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