John McCain

Elephant Talk Bloods the Way to the Watering Hole[*]

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Former Reason intern and The Elephant in the Room author Ryan Sager talks about his new book on the future of the Republican Party with the Washington Times. A snippet:

Q: What are the ideals versus the practices of the Republican Party?

A: The ideal for the Republican Party would be to stick to an idea called fusionism, where both social conservatives and small-government conservatives, or libertarians, support keeping the government small and the economy unburdened and our social fabric strong. During Bush's administration, what we have seen is a wholesale abandonment of the fusionist bargain. We have slipped into big-government conservatism, with things like the No Child Left Behind Act instead of school choice and the Medicare prescription-drug bill instead of free-market health care reform. We've had costly highway and farm bills instead of controlled spending. We've surrendered on campaign finance reform, which really is the most atrocious infringement on free speech since the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Elsewhere Sager, a columnist for the NY Post and RealClear Politics, notes, "The way the Republican Party is going about becoming a majority party is inextricable from abandoning the principles that made it a majority in the first place…. Becoming a permanent majority requires the abandonment of small government and the alienation of libertarians."

Whole thing here.

A sample from Sager's Reason days (ca. 1999), in which he reports that John McCain wants to re-regulate the airlines, here.

[*]: Obscure headline allusion refers to a line in this godawful movie, which features pulse-pounding pachyderm rampages.

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  1. We have slipped into big-government conservatism, with things like the No Child Left Behind Act instead of school choice and the Medicare prescription-drug bill instead of free-market health care reform. We’ve had costly highway and farm bills instead of controlled spending. We’ve surrendered on campaign finance reform, which really is the most atrocious infringement on free speech since the Alien and Sedition Acts.

    All are reasons why we ought to vote for divided government this fall. Of course voting for the LP is always a possibility, but the GOP ought not to be voted back in.

    In my opinion.

  2. The ideal for the Republican Party would be to stick to an idea called fusionism, where both social conservatives and small-government conservatives, or libertarians, support keeping the government small and the economy unburdened and our social fabric strong.

    I don’t think that social convservatism and small government are really compatible. Isn’t the point of politically motivated social conservative to use government to enforce “values”? How would shrinking the government help with that?

  3. The ideal for the Republican Party would be to stick to an idea called fusionism, where both social conservatives and small-government conservatives, or libertarians, support keeping the government small and the economy unburdened and our social fabric strong.

    I don’t think that social convservatism and small government are really compatible. Isn’t the point of politically motivated social conservatives to use government to enforce “values”? How would shrinking the government help with that?

  4. [*]: Obscure headline allusion refers to a line in this godawful movie, which features pulse-pounding pachyderm rampages.

    Aw, I was hoping it was a King Crimson reference.

  5. Becoming a permanent majority requires the abandonment of small government and the alienation of libertarians.

    Most depressing line of the week.

  6. I BELIEVE IT WILL BE EASIER TO GET THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY TO LEARN SMALLER GOVERNMENT HABITS (CLINTONISM) AND RETAIN OUR SOCIAL LIBERTIES THAN TO SEPARATE REPUBLICANS FROM THEIR SOCIAL TALIBANISM AND GET IT RIGHT ON ECONOMICS AT THE SAME TIME

  7. Obscure headline allusion refers to a line in this godawful movie, which features pulse-pounding pachyderm rampages.

    I saw that damn movie. I don’t know why; it must have been the only thing on TV. The only good things about it were Elizabeth Taylor’s looks and [spoiler] the herd of elephants walking through the mansion at the end. If they’d taken all the rest out and put a bunch of car crashes in instead, it would’ve been a good movie.

  8. “I don’t think that social conservatism and small government are really compatible. Isn’t the point of politically motivated social conservatives to use government to enforce `values’? How would shrinking the government help with that?”

    Everything taken to its extreme is incompatible with everything else taken to its extreme. However, there are a great many way stations along a route that a small gov’t movement could take along with traditionalists/social conservatives.

    1. I think the trads should recognize it’d be easier to de-fund secular gov’t institutions and shift the money to religion than it would be to religify the gov’t institutions. So, for instance, they should support de-funding of gov’t schools in favor of private schools, many of which will be religious. Non-religious side effect: increased school choice and reduced size of gov’t.

    2. Taxes can always be cut in ways that proffer help to traditional family arrangements.

    3. It’s not a lot of money, but what the hell, de-subsidize gov’t-supported broadcasting such as ed TV & radio.

    The trads are still pretty Calvinistic, so they still tend more than the avg. person against redistribution and toward social mobility and econ growth. The Catholic trads don’t bring as much of use to the table, unless they were trained Jesuit.

    The wildest card in the deck is the wacky racist right, which I guess can be viewed in some sense as trad or so-con. They actually have much of the “right stuff” in their anarchic tendencies, but they’re near impossible to coalit with, and tend to spin their wheels and drag you into the mud.

  9. When Sager namechecks fusionism, he’s explicitly remembering the coalition of paleo-libertarians, ex-Marxist Cold Warriors, ultramontanist Catholic anti-communists and plain vanilla adherents of capitalism that crystalized at National Review in the 1950s. Frank Meyer was the guru of fusionism, but his version of the faith wasn’t the only ideological tentpole for the magazine. Buckley, Rusher and especially James Burnham had a lot to say about things. I grew up on fusionism, until I tweaked to the “jam tomorrow” aspect of it for libertarians. We were always supposed to: sit in the back seat and shut up, rather than set policy; lick envelopes and man the phone banks but not run for office; and put up with endless military commitments and spending until the Red behemoth was defeated. Well, the Commies lost, and with Bush I in charge at the time, too. The military build-down savings were squandered, and the “peace dividend” era vanished on 9/11. Now we are expected to sign up for a Terror War that bodes to last as long as the Cold one, shut up about the assaults on our civil liberties and pee in this here cup, and never mind about that monstrous annual budget deficit added to the national debt every year.

    But however lame our GOP overlords, we are supposed to take comfort that Kerry would have been worse.

    What’s disgusting is that in the general election I’ll only see one LPer on my ballot, for state treasurer. Quite a comedown from an 11% vote for governor 4 years ago.

    Kevin

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