Among other examples, Berkowitz cites the many compromises and balances that went into the making of the Constitution, noting that complete ideological purism can sabotage greater goals.
This translates, he argues, into two big takeaways for today’s right-leaning frenemies. Libertarians need to “come to grips” with the fact that “the era of big government is here to stay.” Any attempt to significantly dismantle the welfare state, for example, is likely to fail, he says; clear-eyed attempts to limit and reform it will be more successful. Social conservatives, meanwhile, need to accept that the sexual revolution has significantly changed our nation’s mores, and that using the federal government to force-feed traditional values is likely to fail, or, worse, backfire.
Berkowitz aims to resolve a dilemma that has faced conservatives for centuries: “reconciling liberty with tradition, order, and virtue.” In broad strokes, his approach makes perfect sense. When it comes to gay marriage, the cultural ship has sailed; social safety nets, it seems obvious to say, share near universal approval.
But the devil, as always, is in the details: “moderation” — whether regarding taxes, spending, or the issues of culture, life and death — is often in the eye of the beholder. In Ye Olde Valley of Unherdable Cats, a cogent, unifying agenda will be difficult to pull together — that is, at least, until the liberal, “blue state” model completely falls flat. Berkowitz also admits the darker side of compromises made in the past, most notably regarding slavery and the ratification of the Constitution.