Tuesday's New York Times piece described David Cameron as a "Slasher of Government Bloat". The article by John F Burns was premature in comparing Cameron to Thatcher but the fact that it appeared on the front page of America's most important newspaper is noteworthy. Americans are partly interested in Cameron because they know that the Obama administration cannot delay its own budget cuts much longer. Cameron also fascinates the Republicans as they seek to be more than "the party of no".
Former Bush speechwriter Mike Gerson, writing in today's Washington Post, argues that David Cameron could provide a model for the Republicans to defeat Obama. Focusing on the Big Society agenda, Gerson warns his fellow Republicans that Cameronism is about much more than spending cuts:
"Obama has every reason to fear the emergence of Cameron-style Republicanism. But American conservatives who respect Cameron's budget-cutting courage should also pay attention to his political insights. A successful austerity agenda depends on the assembly of an ideological coalition — and it requires a domestic agenda more inspiring than responsible accounting."
In the New York Times Ross Douthat also argues that Cameronism is about much more than fiscal conservatism. Douthat notes that the Tory leader has crafted "a more sweeping and serious blueprint for cutting and decentralising government than we’ve seen from any Republican politician since Newt Gingrich, and maybe Ronald Reagan." Praise indeed.
Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation – an expert on both countries' politics – sees the strengths and weaknesses in Cameron's appeal to US conservatives. For The Telegraph he asks: "Could Cameron become an inspiration to US conservatives in the run-up to November 2010 and even November 2012?". His answer:
"On economic policy and welfare reform, I would say yes. And the British cost-cutting measures are likely to be widely touted by conservative politicians in the run-up to the mid-terms as a powerful example of how America should be dealing with its economic woes. Even the Tea Party movement could be singing the praises of George Osborne’s budget cuts in the coming months. But I would add this caveat: Cameron’s views on socialised health care, the environment, foreign aid, international treaties, and some foreign policy and national security issues are unpopular among US conservatives, and the UK Conservative Party is distinctly to the left of the Republican Party in most areas. There are many on the Right in the States who would view Cameron as a centrist politician, rather than a conservative in the Thatcher-Reagan mould."
Republicans need to take the best of Cameronism – his austerity measures, his decentralisation, his compassionate agenda and his tone – but avoid the fuzziness and unprofessionalism that contributed to Cameron's failure to win an election.