David Brooks, David Frum, Christopher Buckley, and other members of the “moderate” chorus want to define conservatism as marginal improvement of the self-replicating machinery of the State. They accept the founding principle of therapeutic government: faith in the power of intelligent politicians to carefully design an improved future, or at least cushion the damage from inevitable American decline. The only inevitability is the abject failure of the well-creased pants and first-class temperaments they adore.
It doesn’t take starry-eyed love for an imaginary, angelic population to see that American citizens, and the free market that sizzles between their independent desires and endeavors, hold solutions beyond the comprehension of our political class. Visceral hatred of authority is not required to see the ambitions of Big Government come at the expense of its just and lawful duties. The signature difference between the Tea Party protests of today, and the counter-culture protests of forty years ago, is that the Left was wrong then, and they’re wrong now.