Brian Beutler wrote a slightly rambling article this morning, Will Marco Rubio’s Fragile Appeal Be Shattered in New Hampshire? It’s worth reading in full, but I want to focus on one small part of it where he talks about the reformocons.
For those of you who don’t know, the reformocons are conservative pundits who want to reform the Republicans Party and the conservative movement generally. I usually call them “reformish” conservatives after Ryan Cooper’s article on the subject. And the moniker is good, because they aren’t actually interested in reform. They aren’t the equivalent of the Democratic Leadership Council and they would never lead to the rise of “New Republicans.”
Reformocons Are Frauds
Instead, the reformocons are, as Mike Konczal put it, “more gestural than substantive.” Or as I put it, Reform Republicans Only Sound Reasonable — It’s in the Job Description. They fiddle around the edges, but mostly they just want to teach the Republican Party to talk nice and not offend people. When it comes to actual policy, they are as committed to the Randian utopia as Paul Ryan.
But in Beutler’s article, he noted that it was strange that the reformocons have gathered around Rubio. He quoted Michael Brendan Dougherty saying, “Rubio’s candidacy is essentially based on the premise that nothing from the George W Bush era has to change for the Republican Party.” Indeed! The one area where Rubio was supposed to be a moderate was on immigration reform. And if you are out of your teens, you must remember how hard the Bush administration fought for immigration reform.
Reformocons Hate Trump
The supposed basis of the reformocons is that they want the party to be less elitist and to try to make the economy work for the middle class. Well, who in the Republican primary is pushing that message? Certainly not Rubio who “alone proposes reforms (zeroed-out investment taxes, zeroed-out inheritance taxes, significantly reduced corporate taxes) designed to minimize (and in many cases eliminate) the tax liabilities of members of the Republican donor class.” No, the person that the reformocons should be backing is Donald Trump. Yet they hate him!
Given what I’ve already written, it shouldn’t be too hard to understand why the reformocons don’t get behind Trump: because they are frauds! Their reform agenda (such as it is) is designed only to keep the Republican Party competitive. And it isn’t as though they fear Trump won’t be an actual conservative. He proposed a ridiculously regressive tax plan (pdf). But it is other areas where it seems clear that Trump would actually do what the reformocons claim to want to do: help the middle class.
Obviously, Trump cuts against the number one thing that the reformocons want: a more “presentable” Republican Party. His outspoken xenophobia isn’t “nice.” But ultimately, the reformocons don’t get behind Donald Trump for the same reason that the Republican elites don’t: they don’t think he can win the general election. Because that’s all they really care about: winning elections so that the tax cuts on the rich continue to roll in and the reproductive freedom continues to roll out.