In his column, E.J. Dionne Jr. cites the founder of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, in order to criticize Republicans. Unfortunately for Dionne, there are some Burke scholars out there who are actually familiar with Burke’s words and the context in which they were spoken. They don’t rely on Bartlett’s when they invoke Burke. And in this instance, Burke was making quite a different argument than Dionne portrays.
Dionne also writes this:
Alas for all of us and for American conservatism in particular, the new Republican majority that took control of the House on Wednesday is embarked on an experiment in government by abstractions. Many in its ranks pride themselves on being practical business people, but they behave as professors in thrall to a few thrilling ideas.
Here Dionne is reverting to what is, for him, a polemical reflex: citing conservatives in the past to berate conservatives of the present, usually for not being “true” conservatives. I recall in the 1990s discussing welfare reform with E.J., who was a passionate critics of it. In making his argument against welfare reform, Dionne invoked … Edmund Burke. I didn’t find that argument persuasive then, and it’s even less persuasive now. Welfare reform turns out to have been one of the great social policy successes of the last half-century. That’s worth bearing in mind when, down the road, Dionne once again casts himself in the role of the arbiter of true conservatism.