Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog has a message worth heeding, Dear Reform Conservatives: the Anti-Reform Plutocrats Who Finance Your Party Won’t Magically Disappear. It is in reference to a recent article by Josh Barro, Is Trump the Candidate Reform Conservatives Are Seeking? In that article, Barro is more or less making the argument that Trump can cause a “reform conservative” to gain traction in the Republican primary. Barro seems to just get more and more silly as he ages. But that’s true of the “reform conservative” movement. These people will be waiting a long time for the conservative movement to reform itself. And the “reform conservatives” aren’t really helping.
Steve M scoffed at the notion that support for Trump does not, as David Frum was quoted as saying, serve “notice that the donors’ platform isn’t even acceptable inside the party.” The Tea Party — as I seem to repeat at least weekly — started not because of some libertarian concern about “big government.” It didn’t rise up when the banks got bailed out. It rose up when the government started talking about helping home owners. Of course, what it really meant is that the Tea Party isn’t an independent thing. It is just a new name for the Republican base. They’re always pissed off. It was just that the big money donors were willing to fund organizing against helping out ordinary Americans. The money wasn’t there to fund organizing against the bank bailout.
But the point stands. As Steve M said, “These same voters pulled the lever for a hell of a lot of Republicans running on precisely the donors’ platform in the past few years. What do you think the agenda was when Republicans blew out the Democrats in the 2014 midterms? It certainly wasn’t a rebuke-the-Koch-brothers agenda. It certainly wasn’t a rebuke-the-Koch-brothers agenda when Scott Walker won those three elections.” They actually do want to protect Social Security and do think that the oligarchs are manipulating the system for their own benefit. But these are minor issues compared to what all the Republican candidates deliver: demagoguery against the weak.
Even Reihan Salam in Barro’s article indicates that the Tea Party movement isn’t libertarian. Of course, that was clear from the start. The Tea Party movement has never made much sense. But the one aspect of it that binds them all together are conservative social issues. And in particular, it is all about abortion. A radical anti-choice position is the one thing you can depend upon with a Tea Party candidate. It’s probably because they are so focused on such issues that the plutocrats have no problem getting their own way on the economic issues that they care about.
The main thing for me is just to be reminded about how silly the “reform conservative” movement is. The truth is that it is filled with really smart people like Barro and Frum and Salam. Yet they are totally deluded. They can’t get past their own ideology to focus on the practical matters at hand. Are they really interested in policies that would help the middle class? Then why don’t they stand up for union rights? But the answer to that is obvious: they are far more committed to conservatism than they are to the middle class that their “reforms” are supposed to help. And that means that it isn’t just the Republican base that is willing to carry water for the rich — it’s the “reform conservatives” themselves.
See also: Josh Barro Phenomenon. That article, which caused me a lot of grief two years ago, looks pretty damned good now. I’d be curious to hear what Barro now thinks of Christie’s great decision on the tunnel. Was it really a good idea to kill it because it was too costly? If that was the reason he killed it (and I don’t accept that for a moment), then it is a whole lot more costly now.