I've been reading this piece by Robert L. Bartley from 1968. Thinking back, its critique of liberalism is incisive, and there are good lines ("[L]iberals apologized for the rioters and announced that the real culprits are all those who proclaim their racism by wearing a white skin."), but his statement that there was a collapse of the left seems not to have panned out to the degree I would have hoped.
Maybe I just don't have a sense for the slow pace of history, but the major changes instituted during the New Deal have not been weakened or even really corrected. Social Security is still the third rail of politics, despite Bush's celebrated defiance of it by discussing reforms. Medicare is still in trouble, more so because of new prescription drug coverage. There has been a perceived shift to the right, but it has been achieved by triangulation around an axis of New Deal institutions. That's why liberals hate George W. Bush so much. Just as conservatives fumed over Clinton's adoption of "their" issues, so are liberals doubly inflamed not only by Bush's "Compassionate Conservatism" which accepts these institutions and thereby disables them for the Democrats, but by their loss of control of Congress as well.
Their only remaining power lies in their majority on the Supreme Court which has been enhanced by disastrous Republican appointments. It seems that moderate appointments prove Lord Acton's rule about absolute power, making it more urgent to find appointees who will arouse the very most opposition in the Senate by backing away from Roe v. Wade and the ruling on sodomy. Without a filibuster-proof majority, there seems to be no end to the disastrous jurisprudence of the Sixties.
Decisions based on minority rights have served to create a new third bloc, libertarians. These combine elements from both traditions, defending Second Amendment rights as well as abortion, ending the war on drugs and gay rights. These represent a new approach to the same materialistic arguments that Bartley objected to from the liberals and the New Deal, but he would be hard put to argue against liberty which has been so well promoted with the writings of Thomas Jefferson, despite the impracticality and disastrous consequences of Jefferson's individual and states' rights philosophy. It may be time for the country to rediscover other voices to restore our sense of the duties and responsibilities that accompany liberty. We are only beginning now to realize, for example, that declining sexual restraint, commitment in marriage and willingness to bear and raise children in tradtional families result in increased public burdens and failing social security schemes. This is becoming evident in European nations and Canada, where economic growth now depends on immigration to replace former population growth through reproduction.
Another movement that complicates the simple conservataive-liberal dichotomy is environmentalism, which has become a major growth industry, spreading another materialist argument against growth and burdening economies.
Bartley's views were clear-sighted, and he contributed greatly to the debate, giving a great platform to the thinking of conservatives. I just wish I felt that I had seen more real progress of the shift to the right.