Libertarian History/Philosophy

What the GOP is All About


In what has become a common trope among respectable right-wingers, Ramesh Ponnuru joins David Frum in blaming (at least partially) libertarian thinking for corrupting the modern GOP–specifically, by claiming that believing "big government" thinking has been an electoral problem for the GOP is causing the GOP to think shrinking government matters more than it does. (Rather, he believes it has been radical intransigence and not addressing wage stagnation that hurt Republicans' electoral prospects in recent years.)

Daniel McCarthy at American Conservative counters and sums up some sad realities about what the modern Republican Party does stand for.

Wage stagnation is a long-term problem, but there's little evidence that it contributed to the GOP's defeat in 2006; certainly Ponnuru provides none. It sounds like a device to minimize the role foreign policy played in the GOP's descent. The Ponnuru line is that Republicans should do more of what he likes — bribing the middle class with dubious social programs like Medicare Part D or mandatory retirement savings programs (a great handout to Wall Street) — while ignoring the uncomfortable truth that a war Ponnuru supported cost his party dearly….

It certainly is a myth that Republicans lost in 2006 or 2008 because they were too big government, but small-government ideology, which was neither preached nor practiced then, can hardly be blamed either….

The truth that hardly gets spoken is that certain Republican pundits who consider themselves social conservatives have a vision for this country that amounts to a hybrid of European-style Christian Democracy and Chilean semi-privatization of the welfare state, along with a values-hyping foreign policy delegated to outright neoconservatives and a managerial-therapeutic approach to the poor. The Bush administration, especially in its first term, was the closest these pundits ever came to getting what they want. And it was a strategic, fiscal, and moral disaster for the country.

Me from 2004 on why the right-wing matters less than it thinks.

NEXT: Roll Your Own, Avoid the Taxes

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  1. Hell of a response from McCarthy

    1. He does exactly what he accuses Ramesh of doing, saying that the GOP’s only problem was not doing exactly what he likes.

      Note how McCarthy also dismisses the idea that being too big government or small government would hurt the GOP. Nope, the only thing that matters is his pet issue.

  2. The Bush administration, especially in its first term, was the closest these pundits ever came to getting what they want. And it was a strategic, fiscal, and moral disaster for the country.

    Not to mention GWB’s third term…

    1. Not to mention GWB’s third term…
      ….which includes a dubious new tactic – the purposeful harming of America: preventing construction of an oil pipeline that would mean a good many jobs, blocking Boeing’s plan to build in SC which would bring more jobs, working to collapse SS by reducing its funding source..the payroll tax, Obamacare and the budget-crushing costs it will impose. Why, it’s a European social dems wet dream – Denmark but with more parking.

      1. My big complaint about Denmark was the lack of convenient parking.

  3. Uneven response by McCarthy. He spends some time accusing Ponnuru of having views that he does not, and all that is frankly irrelevant, since Ponnuru was discussing what is popular, rather than what is right, as is clear in his other pieces on the subject. He’s no Frum.

    Besides, there’s perfectly room for both of them to have some truth. War fatigue certainly does seem to have hurt the GOP– though one wonders why Obama has continued the same policy. But war fatigue could have hurt the GOP *and* GWB’s big government spending could have bought votes.

    Many libertarian views about shrinking government are far less popular than I’d like.

    The American people hate raising taxes, but they hate cutting spending, too. They also like a lot of regulation, since it seems to be “free.”

  4. “It sounds like a device to minimize the role foreign policy played in the GOP’s descent.”

    Could be. It could also be that the GOP has been tossing taxpayer money around like it grows on trees.

  5. to quote the Southpark duo: “I hate conservative but I FUCKING hate liberals”.

    conservatives are bad, very very bad., But goddamn liberals are so much worse. They really are.

    1. I just listened to Michael Savege rant for 5 minutes about how marijuana was a higly addictive toxin known to make people psychotic. Now this? I fucking hate conservatives. If they jump off the “small government” bandwagon then what the hell is even remotely redeeming about them?

  6. David Frum is a respectable right winger?

  7. Oh my fucking god, wage stagnation? Are you serious? There is no wage stagnation when you include benefit packages, compensation has risen at essentially the same pace it always has, despite the fact that people work 5 fewer hours per week than they used to, and despite the fact that we’ve imported 30+ million poor mexicans. Wage stagnation? Fuck you and die.

    Never forget, neocons were originally openly socialist before they went closet socialist. They still lie like good socialists, though.

  8. “a managerial-therapeutic approach to the poor”

    Most succinct description of compassionate conservatism I’ve ever heard.

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