On the Conservative Movement
I think that Daniel Larison is dead on right when it comes to describing a disturbingly large portion of the conservative base in this post.
Conservatives seem to have spent the last year rapidly regressing from cheering on lame politicians who could at least intelligently recite their platitudes (Romney) to worshipping pseudo-populists who could not even do that (Palin) to elevating random guys who didn’t like taxes (the Plumber) to rallying around a radio host who makes Romney’s own brand of Reagan nostalgia and three-legs-of-the-stoolism seem deep and meaningful by comparison. Of course, there isn’t that much substantively different between Romney’s opportunistic recitations and Limbaugh’s boilerplate, but at least with Romney you knew that he was capable of saying something else and would have said it if he had thought it was to his advantage. The boilerplate is not only all Limbaugh knows how to say, but if you pressed him to elaborate on any of it he would just repeat himself.
This is, sadly, quite right. I read most of the major conservative blogs and magazines and am frankly distressed at the tone the movement has taken over the past several years. There are very few people out there pushing real, conservative/libertarian opinions out there in a fresh way that recognizes that the policy challenges and solutions are not the same as the were in 1929/1960/1980/1993. Instead, even from self-proclaimed conservative intellectuals like Newt Gingrich, all we get are tired ideas that have no bearing on the economic and policy problems of today. How the hell is repealing the estate tax going to solve the collapse of the financial system? How can we drill for more oil now when oil companies are currently divesting from new drilling because of the sharp decline in the price of oil? How can cutting earmarks be the key to getting to a balanced budget when they comprise only a tiny portion of the deficit? Yes, we should “replace Sarbanes-Oxley,” but what is the suggested alternative?
More to the point, what is the conservative vision for what the economy should look like? All I ever hear is “tax cuts!” and “less regulation!” Right now, conservatives aren’t pushing a clear picture of what they want. Largely because, I suspect, because they’re not sure. Best as I can figure, the answer is “whatever will annoy liberals.” That might make folks like Limbaugh and Coulter rich, but it’s hardly a way forward for the future.
I voted for Obama knowing full well that his economic vision and mine were not the same. But one key thing to realize is that McCain’s was barely any different. Twiddling around with marginal tax rates and differing bailout plans won’t do a thing to alter the fundmental structure of the American economy. And that’s what we need. Frankly, I doubt a McCain Administration stimulus package would look very different than Obama’s. A few more tax cuts here, a little bit different spending there… but overall neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party have grasped some of the fundamental changes in the economy that would be possible if the rules weren’t set up to be rigged in favor of large, bureaucratic, economy-dominating, big government dependent corprorations instead of small, nimble, niche-oriented entrepreneurs.
That’s because both parties are too deeply invested in the rules.
Photo by Flickr user skye820, used under Creative Commons license.