Earlier this week, I wrote about Marco Rubio’s pathetic excuse for moderating the Republican message at the Jack Kemp Foundation dinner. Basically, he didn’t change anything about his speech, he just claimed that things he would normally say helped “job creators” now helped the “middle class.” But Ross Douthat was very impressed with the speech.
In his column yesterday, Douthat writes, The Years of Senator DeMint. It is basically a comparison of what Jim DeMint did the last four years and what he hopes Rubio is going to do the next four. He rightly points out that it is normal for a party that receives a drubbing to go all Stalin and purge their ranks. Now that this is done, DeMint’s protege Rubio will lead the Republican Party out of the darkness. Something like that.
My problem with this is that the Republicans have been all reform talk and no reform action. And even Douthat accepts this. He writes, “The speech didn’t offer the kinds of policy breakthroughs the party ultimately requires.” But I think all the optimism about the party just comes from Douthat’s hope. Like most Republicans, Douthat has no problem with Republican policies. He just wants them to talk nice. And let’s not forget that Douthat was peddling this same bullshit four years ago with Reihan Salam, Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.
The Republican Party has fundamental problems that are going to stop them from rethinking their policies—at least for a while. The biggest is that they have this very weird coalition of economic libertarians and social medievalists. Almost any substantial changes will destroy one of these groups. Another problem is that they are still fairly popular; why should they change when they can still get roughly half the vote nation wide. (This, of course, is why they rightly continue to think that they can finesse their way to victory with pretty talk about bad policy.) And still another problem is that they are committed to destroying the government, and that isn’t a very compelling argument in being put in charge of it.
So Ross Douthat can continue to dream. But the future Republican Party looks very much like the past Republican Party.
In Douthat’s festival of praise for DeMint, he pushes a canard that I hate, “DeMint—and the larger Tea Party wave he rode—also succeeded in making Republicans more serious about limited government than the party had ever been under Bush.” This is bullshit. The truth is that whenever the Democrats hold the White House, the Republicans become fiscal conservatives. As I wrote many times during this last election, if Romney had won, he would have passed loads of ordinary Keynesian stimulus. DeMint didn’t make the Republicans fiscally conservative, Obama did.