News & Criticism

Big-Government Conservative, After Helping Big-Government Conservatism Fail, Advocates Big-Government Conservatism

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Bill Kristol, in today's New York Times:

[C]onservatives should think twice before charging into battle against Obama under the banner of "small-government conservatism." It's a banner many Republicans and conservatives have rediscovered since the election and have been waving around energetically. Jeb Bush, now considering a Senate run in 2010, even went so far as to tell Politico last month, "There should not be such a thing as a big-government Republican."

Really? Jeb Bush was a successful and popular conservative governor of Florida, with tax cuts, policy reforms and privatizations of government services to show for his time in office. Still, in his two terms state spending increased over 50 percent — a rate faster than inflation plus population growth. It turns out, in the real world of Republican governance, that there aren't a whole lot of small-government Republicans.

Kristol goes on to say that Ronald Reagan was the only Republican president since 1932 who "was even close to being a small-government conservative," and even then "he campaigned in 1980 more as a tax-cutter and national-defense-builder-upper, and less as a small-government enthusiast[.]" Conclusion:

So talk of small government may be music to conservative ears, but it's not to the public as a whole. This isn't to say the public is fond of big-government liberalism. It's just that what's politically vulnerable about big-government liberalism is more the liberalism than the big government.

It will be very interesting to see how the editor of Dick Cheney's in-flight magazine will be treated by a Republican Party that has largely followed his advice since Sept. 12, 2001 (down to embracing his new post-John McCain crush Sarah Palin), and come out at the end of it in worse shape than at any times since the creation of the World Wide Web.