Saturday, June 1, 2013

To Whom Will Republicans Say Yes?

Republicans apparently want to say yes. They have a video that says so.

However, it is unclear whom they will say yes and what they will affirm. Writing in The New York Times, Ross Douthat claims Republican reformers have a big camp:

But what people who use the term mostly have in mind, I think, are those of us who think that the American right’s biggest problem, both politically and practically, lies in economic policy, where the Reagan-era catechism is insufficient to meet contemporary challenges, and where the Republican Party is currently offering a set of policies and slogans that simply aren’t responsive to the anxieties of Americans who aren’t already securely in the upper class.
Now this reformist camp, too, is a broad circle: It includes veterans of Bush-era “compassionate conservatism” like Pete Wehner and Michael Gerson, combative moderates like David Frum and Josh Barro, moderate moderates like my colleague David Brooks, free-market populists like the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney, “crunchy con” localists like The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher, pragmatic libertarians like The Daily Beast’s Megan McArdle and her husband, Reason’s Peter Suderman, and many others.
Ryan Cooper writes the individuals Douthat names have some influence:
By being careful in what they say, a number of these writers have built audiences among party elites, and increasingly so since November, according to interviews with Republican House and Senate staffers. “They’re addressing ideas in policy spaces where there may be gaps,” says Neil Bradley, an aide to Eric Cantor. “Ramesh is widely regarded as a smart and insightful thinker,” agrees a Senate Republican aide. The reformists are read in Marco Rubio’s office; Paul Ryan’s office is a fan of Levin.
Douthat  proposes only a series of economic policies. He concludes by emphasizing what his proposals wouldn't do:
You’ll notice, in what I’ve included and what I’ve left out above, that there are also things that a G.O.P. reformed along these lines wouldn’tdo. It wouldn’t embrace  (or re-embrace) a cap-and-trade bill, or any sweeping regulatory response to climate change. (The influence of Jim Manzi is strong here.) It wouldn’t endorse further tax increases — or not unless something like the Wyden-Ryan Medicare plan was actually on the table. It would remain skeptical of many of the major features of Obamanomics — the design of the stimulus bill, the individual mandate, forays into industrial policy. It would be reality-based regarding the likely outcome of the gay marriage debate and non-Akinist on abortion, but it wouldn’t try to jettison social conservatives or sideline their concerns; instead, it would mostly work to broaden the pro-family message into the realm of economic policy. And it wouldn’t make immigration reform central to the party’s “rebranding” effort.
Douthat may be overestimating what social conservatives will accept in the name of reform. He is also silent on guns and the national security state. Given that nearly all Republican politicians find it necessary to show fealty to the gun lobby, Douthat may be a bit optimistic about his agenda:
Is this a policy synthesis that would make the G.O.P. more effective at winning national elections? I think so, but that’s certainly debatable. Is it an agenda that the party is likely to actually embrace anytime soon? That’s much more doubtful: On a few fronts, it’s already there or on its way, but the crucial idea that conservatism ought to focus directly on the economic interests of downscale Americans has not exactly caught fire within the G.O.P., and the party’s relationship to reform-minded policy wonks remains … well, distant is a kind way of putting it.
Cooper adds to my doubts when he quotes people who point out that Obama hatred may be more important than policy to some:
“There is a cultural gulf,” says John Feehery, a former staffer for Tom DeLay and Dennis Hastert, between the reformist writer-intellectuals, with their New York/Washington sensibilities, and Republican officeholders, with their base of voters in Texas, Kansas, and Georgia. The reformists “are speaking the language of policy,” notes Feehery, while the base “is speaking the language of hating Obama.”
Finally, there's another group of people Douthat ignores, although they may overlap with the Obama haters. Ed Kilgore writes:
The scary thing is that “constitutional conservatives” think of themselves as the only genuine “conservative reformers;” every one else is a RINO or a squish or a whore who wants to buy votes with inherently illegitimate public-sector initiatives. And the problem with many of those who truly do want to “reform” conservatism or the Republican Party is that while they are debating with each other and with progressives, the “constitutional conservatives are playing for keeps without self-doubt or any interest in compromise.
It will be interesting, disconcerting, perversely fun to watch whom Republicans wind up saying yes to.

1 comment:

Troy Jones said...

This was a great catch LK.

The body politic in 1930 was re-aligned by Roosevelt because of the opportunity provided by Hoover.

The body politic in 1960 was re-aligned in 1960 by Kennedy.

The body politic in 1980 was re-aligned in 1980 by Reagan because of the opportunity provided by Carter.

The nation is due again. Obama tried by failed (the youth vote in 2008 that loved Obama are highly disillusioned because their college degrees have gotten them jobs waiting on tables). The middle 40% are ripe for the taking and the winner will be the one who appeals to the Millenials.