Economic Apostasy on the Right?

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Republican Party

Thomas Edsall writes that a few conservatives are questioning free-market orthodoxy. One of the “questioners” he cites already has clarified that he doesn’t question “free-market orthodoxy” at all. That guy, James Pethokoukis, works for the American Enterprise Institute and I suspect he wants to keep his job. As Edsall remembers,

Just four years ago, David Frum, still another former speechwriter for George W. Bush, was fired by A.E.I. after sharply attacking Republican refusals to negotiate with Democrats on Obamacare in March of 2010. “We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat,” Frum declared. “Our overheated talk,” he wrote, “mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead.”

On the Right, “free markets” are more sacred than Jesus. Some of them might rather take their chances with lions in an arena than denounce untrammeled and unregulated capitalism. They might assume a giant, invisible hand will reach down to rescue them.

Edsall mentions a couple of other people:

Pethokoukis is one of a number of conservative analysts who over the past three years have undergone something of an intellectual conversion. Michael Gerson, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush and now a Washington Post columnist, and Peter J. Wehner, also a Bush speechwriter and now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, published “A Conservative Vision of Government” in the winter 2014 edition of the journal National Affairs. Their essay is an attack on the idea cherished by many Tea Party activists that all (or nearly all) government action and intervention is bad.

The problem is, Gerson in particular has a long history of trollerly. He’s skilled at sounding reasonable and moderate while also signaling allegiance to that which is unreasonable and radical. Jonathan Chait does a good job of taking this phenomenon apart.

Edsall goes on to note that the Right’s unflagging extremism is really good at whipping up the base, but (a) it is slowly losing them support among voters who are not crazy, particularly outside the South and the Midwest; and (b) it makes crafting actual policy that might actually be enacted in Real World Land pretty much impossible. But can the Republican Party, even gradually, turn itself around, or is it too far gone and being pulled by a current of its own making toward a total crackup? And if the latter, will it take the country with it?

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. c u n d gulag  •  Jun 5, 2014 @10:42 am

    “But can the Republican Party, even gradually, turn itself around, or is it too far gone and being pulled by a current of its own making toward a total crackup?
    And if the latter, will it take the country with it?”

    That first one is a good question.
    But we’ve been waiting for “Peak Wingnut” for years, and every time we think their Reich-Wing Wurlitzer’s amp can’t go higher than “11,” we find that it’s now at “12!”

    As for the second question, if the Republican insanity continues, it could very well take the country with it.
    We are already in decline, and they’re accelerating that decline – all in the hope that the voters will put them back in charge of America.

    And if the Republican Party takes the country with it, and their survivors can stand on the smoking rubble and wave their American flag with one hand, and hold the Bible in the other, than they will consider that a glorious victory!
    At that point, Greek King Pyrrhus of Epirus, will have nothing on todays Modern American Conservatives.

    Party over people!
    Party over country!!
    PARTY UBER ALLES!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. moonbat  •  Jun 5, 2014 @10:48 am

    But can the Republican Party, even gradually, turn itself around, or is it too far gone and being pulled by a current of its own making toward a total crackup? And if the latter, will it take the country with it?

    It’s still an open question, but we just had a primary election in California where the reasonable, establishment GOP guy won against the Tea Party candidate. Karl Rove and a previous Republican governor, Pete Wilson, basically strung the Tea Party guy up for making stupid, disparaging remarks about Muslims, signalling loud and clear to Republican voters statewide that the Tea Party guy is nuts and unqualified. Day after election, the headline read: California GOP Sighs Breath of Relief, that the nutball wasn’t elected.

    Jerry Brown’s still going to walk away with it come November, so we’re still in safe hands for a few years. But the Borg is adapting.

    I’ve read of attempts by the Kochs to make sure their guy gets in, not some Tea Party crazy. It’s a very simple strategy. Rather than waste money on the top elections in the country (eg President), which are extremely expensive and problematic (as Karl Rove discovered), the money buys much more at the state level. And so this is the battle that’s interesting to me, how effective they will be at reigning in the many individual members of Congress for example.

  3. uncledad  •  Jun 5, 2014 @11:09 am

    “On the Right, “free markets” are more sacred than Jesus”

    True but only when they are controlled by 8-10 rich white guys!

  4. Stephen Stralka  •  Jun 5, 2014 @11:46 am

    When you find yourself having to rewrite history in order to make your economic philosophy work out, you might want to pause and reconsider. For instance, I found a book called New Deal or Raw Deal? at the library, which explains how FDR actually made the Depression worse.

    Or actually it doesn’t really explain everything, it falls into the general pseudohistory pattern of asserting things over and over as if that’s sufficient to prove them.

    Well, I’ve only read the first couple of chapters. So far I’ve learned that there were precisely three cause of the Great Depression: WWI, the Smoot-Hawley tariff, and the Federal Reserve. That’s it. I know other historians have proposed other causes, but those will not be considered. Three is all you get.

  5. joanr16  •  Jun 5, 2014 @1:10 pm

    a Bush speechwriter and now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center

    I threw up a little when I read that.

  6. c u n d gulag  •  Jun 5, 2014 @1:23 pm

    joan,
    Better that organization, than having that Christian conservative loon on The Ethnics and Public Policy Center.

  7. Doug  •  Jun 5, 2014 @2:26 pm

    Will someone explain to me where the reverence – no, adoration – for the free market was when Medicare Part D was passed with the provision that the government, the largest customer in the drug market, would be prohibited from price shopping? Government interference in the marketplace was OK when it guaranteed obscene profits to Big Pharma. Obamacare was a similar deal which guaranteed a monopoly to Medical Insurance, which is why there is no public option.

    If anything gets done by Congress ‘for the people’, close examination shows the people are thrown the crumbs and corporate America is the real winner. Do note – democrats are doing it as well, for a different group of special interests usually, and maybe to a lesser (or less obvious) degree, but this is how Washington works. A whole lot of the rhetoric is designed to keep the partisan left and the partisan right occupied (at each others throats) while Congress appeases their corporate masters who walk away with the loot.

  8. Swami  •  Jun 5, 2014 @7:22 pm

    And he spake unto them saying, Government is not the solution, it is the problem. And the multitudes did marvel at his saying. Wondering among them from what power does he speak such truth.

  9. Swami  •  Jun 5, 2014 @8:28 pm

    The problem is, Gerson in particular has a long history of trollerly. He’s skilled at sounding reasonable and moderate while also signaling allegiance to that which is unreasonable and radical.

    Gerson was responsible of giving the invasion of Iraq a rhetorical underpinning of being a religious crusade. His speech writing was steeped in scriptural overtones. Bush’s famous divisive pronouncement of — If you are not for us you, then you are against us. — was Gerson’s speechwriting handiwork. Gerson did a lot of dog whistling to the religious right.

  10. Dan  •  Jun 6, 2014 @10:45 am

    Different story, but I did note that an unarmed student disarmed the gunman in Seattle, and other unarmed students subdued and held him for the authorities.

  11. Stephen Stralka  •  Jun 6, 2014 @11:31 am

    Yay unarmed students!

    It really amazes me that so many people actually think more guns always make you safer. It doesn’t even occur to them that mainly what you’re protecting yourself from is all the other people with guns.

  12. joanr16  •  Jun 6, 2014 @11:39 am

    Pepper spray and personal courage can work wonders, apparently.



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