2:15 p.m. “Conservatism Today” is the fourth panel convened today at the Humphrey Institute’s series of forums entitled America’s Future: Conversations about Politics and Policy during the 2008 Republican National Convention. Moderating this afternoon’s panel is E.J. Dionne (Columnist, Washington Post and Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution). The panelists are:

* Ross Douthat (Associate Editor, The Atlantic)
* Mickey Edwards (Lecturer, Princeton University and Director, Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership)
* David Frum (Contributing Editor, National Review Online and Rsident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute)

2:28 p.m. Douthat examines what has made the white working class vote in increasing numbers for Republicans over the past few decades. Some argue Republicans have ‘duped’ working class white voters by appealing to a variety of social issues (e.g. gay marriage) while enacting policies contrary to the interests of these working class voters (and not enacting legislation on these social issues in the meantime). Others argue for reasons centering on Republican ‘purity’ (i.e. limited government) stemming out of the 1964 Goldwater campaign and moving forward through Reagan etc.

2:36 p.m.Edwards notes that the origins of American conservatism were based in the Constitution – the Equal Rights Amendment, giving D.C. a vote in Congress etc. Edwards believes self-identified conservatives today have gotten away from the origins of conservatism. Edwards says consevatives have now become Republicans first and crossed the line so that Repubican members of Congress view a Republican President as the head of their party, not the head of a separate brach of government which they are supposed to check.

2:44 p.m. Former Bush speechwriter Frum states the Republican Party has been in decline since the mid-1990s. Frum notes there has been a collapse of support among the affluent for the Republican Party, in addition to young voters. Frum adds Republicans have also alienated working class Americans in recent years due to economic conditions which has seen a lot of expansion, but little benefit to the working class. Democrats also now have a 5:3 advantage over Republicans on the issue of ethics.

2:55 p.m. Former Minnesota Congressman Vin Weber says Republicans have wrestled with the notion of its principles of limited government with the fact that most people see a role for government in their lives.

3:05 p.m. Edwards says conservatives should be for ‘limited’ government, but not ‘small’ government – that is, there is a limited scope of what government should do, but there will be a set of issues that it will have a great role to play. “It is not our job to shut down the government,” he adds.

3:15 p.m. Frum states he is very worried about McCain’s selection of Palin last week – he hopes McCain did his homework on Palin, but he fears he did not. Frum acknowledges the selection has fired up social conservatives in a good way, but not the country as a whole. Douthat says he blogged about the positives of a McCain/Palin ticket months ago. Edwards believes Palin was selected because McCain had to take a gamble – the race, although polling close, was Obama’s to win.

3:25 p.m. Frum believes that McCain’s political philosophy and campaign is one of contradictions — for environmental protection but also for more domestic drilling. Weber says McCain is more like FDR, who also did not campaign on a consistent message.