Paul 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.
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.