Reform Republicans Only Sound Reasonable—It’s in the Job Description

Ross DouthatA couple of days ago, I wrote about Ross Douthat’s widely mocked column. I was following off Ezra Klein’s idea that Presidents are more powerful when Congress decides to do nothing. I wrote, Republican Delusion Empowers Obama. Well, since Douthat’s first article, he has had a bit of a back and forth with Brian Beutler at New Republic (among others), and I think it is really enlightening about the broader issue that all of this brings up: Republican dysfunction and how the reform aspects of the party are nothing of the kind.

In this case, we get to the bottom of how even the most reasonable conservatives are still just as crazy as the Republican Party itself. Douthat is considered a leading light among Republican reformers. In his article Reformish Conservatives, Ryan Cooper gave Douthat a score of 5 out of 10 in the level of his reform ideas. But remember, Cooper is being very nice, or at least grading on a curve. Republican apologist David Frum got a score of 7. So make of that what you will.

As far as I’m concerned, what makes them Republican “reformers” is that they don’t spit bile. It isn’t that they really want the party to change its policies as that they want the party to talk nice. And Douthat does indeed talk nice. So he got some push back for his Sunday column saying that what Obama was going to do would be “Tyranny! Tyranny I tell you!” This caused him to come out with another, rather long, article where he responded to his critics, Anatomy of a Power Grab. In it, he admitted that his column had been “a little on the shrill side.”

That gives away the game right there, I’m afraid. Douthat admits that he forgot what his job description is. He’s supposed to make right wing talking points sound reasonable. And so in the blog post, he is back to form: telling it like it isn’t in a reasonable sounding way. But Beutler is there to catch the heart of Douthat’s argument. Basically, Douthat is arguing that the current DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is illegal. If he isn’t, then Douthat’s argument is just about norms and it becomes a mess that absolutely cannot be addressed until we know exactly what Obama wants to do. So I have to assume that Douthat, just like the Republican crazies in the House, thinks that what Obama is doing right now is illegal. Beutler:

Clearly Douthat would prefer it if Congress tied [the President’s] hands. But a column urging the Senate to pass Steve King’s plan to end DACA wouldn’t have been as tantalizing as one warning that the specter of Caesarism is haunting America.

I think it is more correct to say that a column in support of right wing nut job Steve King would be an act of Reformish Republican malpractice. His job description clearly states that he is supposed to push unreasonable conservative ideas, but dress them up in nice words and formal argument so that they seem reasonable. Otherwise, what is Douthat doing at The New York Times? The Steve Kings and the Louie Gohmerts can speak for themselves. And Douthat knows this. If he stopped cloaking his misogyny and homophobia in the form of “saving the middle class family,” he’d be out of a job. And I don’t think Breitbart.com is hiring right now.

(Just kidding! Breitbart.com is always hiring when gay-hating misogynists are available!)

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

3 thoughts on “Reform Republicans Only Sound Reasonable—It’s in the Job Description

  1. I forget where I heard it, but the best tag I have read for the reform crowd is Taco Bell conservatism: the same five ingredients packaged a different way. Since conservative politics and conservative religion have overwritten each other no deviation from doctrine is permitted.

  2. @Lawrence – That’s great. I may start using that.

    The politics/religion thing is very real. I now see Constitutional apologia. People want to claim that it was God inspired and so is perfect. But just as in the Bible, there’s that business of slavery. And of course the "Indian savages."

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