What Are Republican Reformers, Anyway?

Ross DouthatPaul Krugman wrote an interesting blog post, The Pathos of Republican Reformers. It starts, “Ross Douthat has a wonderfully written, heartfelt takedown of the WSJ editorial page, which is — surprise! — dead set against any deviation from the tax-cuts-for-the-rich agenda.” But Krugman goes on to wonder about the naivete of these supposed reformers; did they “really think there was any chance that their ideas would achieve headway within the party?” Well, I’m not quite so sympathetic toward these people — especially Ross Douthat.

Douthat is a Catholic and that seems to be why he is a conservative. I refer to him as “God’s older brother.” The truth is that Catholics don’t have to be conservatives. Just look at Garry Wills. The issue for Christians is always what you are going to focus on. Douthat focuses on homosexuality and abortion. He cares about feeding the poor and so on, but not enough to turn against a party that is totally at odds with that. And that’s true of all of the reformish conservatives. They all have their little issues with the Republican Party, but they all buy into the basic idea that the rich deserve everything and the government should be set up to facilitate that.

It’s very simple. The Republican Party is so broken — it has nothing to offer to the nation — that it needs these apologists who claim to be reformers.

But as Krugman says in other words: what the hell is the Republican Party all about anyway? So I think all these Republican reformers are frauds. Even Josh Barro. Of all the Republican reformers, he’s the only one (along with Bruce Bartlett — who has similar problems) that even pretends to take reform seriously. The rest just want to make the Republican Party seem better. But look at how Barro provided cover for Chris Christie’s fiasco on the Hudson River tunnel.

We got into a small public fight about it. He claimed that Christie was against the tunnel because it was too expensive. I noted that this was what politicians always said when they wanted to kill something for other reasons. No politician ever says, “I want to kill this needed infrastructure project because I want to give the money away to my rich friends.” This is political science 101. See the book Winner-Take-All Politics if you have any questions. But Barro claimed I was dumb because as a liberal, I just wanted to spend money without worrying about efficiency. Then a year later, it came out that Chris Christie did in fact kill the tunnel so he could cut taxes and that he would never have allowed the tunnel — a decision that will cost the state of New Jersey billions of extra dollars over the coming years.

Think about things from the other side. I have a lot of problems with the Democratic Party. I’m highly critical of it and I’m very open about the fact that in a parliamentary system, I would not be a Democrat. Yet I don’t put on airs that I’m a Democratic Party reformer. And no one in the Democratic Party does that. The reason is simple: everyone in every political party has problems with it. There are always things that they don’t agree with. So what’s the big deal about Republican reformers?

It’s very simple. The Republican Party is so broken — it has nothing to offer to the nation — that it needs these apologists who claim to be reformers. And the reason for this is because our media is not willing to tell the truth. So they have to pretend that there are people in the Republican Party trying to turn it into something that a reasonable and informed person could support. But none of these guys actually care about reforming what is wrong with the party. David Frum wants gun control, but keep those tax cuts for the rich and foreign wars coming! And Ross Douthat might care about the poor, but not enough to give up on the party that panders to what he really cares about: homosexuality and abortion.

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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.

2 thoughts on “What Are Republican Reformers, Anyway?

  1. > I have a lot of problems with the Democratic Party. I’m highly critical of it and I’m very open about the fact that in a parliamentary system, I would not be a Democrat.

    I know you’ve mentioned some of these problems before, but I’d like to read more about what specific problems you have, and what solutions, if any, you can suggest.

    • I should write a series of articles. We could start by supporting a higher inflation target — at least 3%. The Democratic Party is totally committed to having by far the largest army in the world, so I’d change that. I’m in favor of greatly expanding the social safety net, the party is for treading water at best. Social Security is the stingiest retirement program in the OECD, and the party is fine with that. There’s Israel, which I think the party should tell to stop creating settlements today or we won’t support it and cover for it at the UN. The NSA, CIA, and FBI are all allowed to do whatever they want without anyone thinking that it ought to be otherwise. The Bush administration should have been tried for torture — or we should at least have add a T&R commission. The Democratic Party is fully behind the rubber-stamp FISA court. I’m in favor of a wealth tax and that is anathema to the party. I could go on.

      Now I’m not saying that there aren’t other Democrats who don’t feel the same way as I do. But that’s rather the point. In a parliamentary system, the Democrats would be two parties: a neoliberal party and a democratic socialist party. What we used to call the Republican establishment would join the neoliberals, because they aren’t social conservatives. Ultimately, you might end up with the same thing: a coalition government of the democratic socialists and the neoliberals. But at least the fascist party (AKA: the Republican base) would only have about 25% of the vote and so wouldn’t gain power, as they might in this election if the economy tanks.

      I think what I mean by that phrase is that I’m no longer a liberal in the general sense of the term. I have basic problems with the capitalist system. I’m past the point of even being a New Deal Democrat, because I think it just softens the edges of the system. I don’t like calling myself a socialist, because it is such an ill-defined term. What’s more, I don’t want revolution. But long before Thomas Frank started writing about the Democratic Party being responsible for the state of the Republican Party, I was saying it. The modern Democratic Party is little more than the old Republican Party on economic issues with the addition of social liberalism. And Frank is right when he says that the Republicans are the party of the 0.1%, but the Democrats are the party of the 10%. And clearly, that’s better. But it isn’t what I want.

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