Intellectually Honest Conservatives
Andrew Sullivan continues to provide ammunition to those who argue that he isn’t, despite his claims to the contrary, a conservative with his post “If The Right Were Intellectually Honest …” It’s one thing to argue that the Bush administration or the dominant faction of the Republican Party is wrong or dishonest or whathaveyou. But it’s hard to constantly criticize the legitimacy of one’s side and continue to plausibly claim to be on that side. The point of the Yglesias Award is to recognize those who occasionally cede a point to the other side; if one does it all the time, one has switched sides.
Beyond that, the argument itself strikes me as bizarre:
The GOP has passed what amounts to a spending and tax-cutting and borrowing stimulus package every year since George W. Bush came to office. They have added tens of trillions to future liabilities and they turned a surplus into a trillion dollar deficit – all in a time of growth. They then pick the one moment when demand is collapsing in an alarming spiral to argue that fiscal conservatism is non-negotiable. I mean: seriously.
If I understand correctly, the logic is that:
1. Bush and the Stupid, Dishonest Right screwed up our economy by spending too much money stimulating it.
2. To fix it and remain (er, become?) honest, they must therefore agree to spend too much money now (and, presumably, evermore?) stimulating it.
And what of those of us on the Right who opposed excess spending during the Bush years? Wouldn’t it be intellectually dishonest to be in favor of it now? Or must we agree simply because it’s now called “stimulus” rather than “wasteful spending”?
For that matter, what of those of us who dislike the idea of massive spending but are halfheartedly persuaded that it’s nonetheless necessary in the present case and simply want to direct it appropriately? Can we at least argue for spending no more than necessary and targetting it in ways we’d prefer?
For that matter, even if we’re speaking only of elected Republicans, it should be noted that there are now decidedly fewer of them in Washington. What if they’ve honestly been chastened by their electoral failures and have decided to get back to basics? Is that dishonest?