There’s a great deal of talk about reform in the conservative world, as the GOP scrambles to fight the war on demographics. Paul Krugman sums up the core issue: the abiding unwillingness of the GOP and conservatives to accept reality.
Paul Krugman, The Closing Of The Conservative Mind
Start with the proposition that there is a legitimate left-right divide in U.S. politics, built around a real issue: how extensive should be make our social safety net, and (hence) how much do we need to raise in taxes? This is ultimately a values issue, with no right answer.
There are, however, a lot of largely empirical questions whose answers need not, in principle, be associated with one’s position on this left-right divide but, in practice, are. A partial list:
1.The existence of anthropogenic climate change
2.The effects of fiscal stimulus/austerity
3.The effects of monetary expansion, and the risks of inflation
4.The revenue effects of tax cuts
5.The workability of universal health care
I’ve deliberately chosen a list here where the evidence is, in each case, pretty much overwhelming. There is a real scientific consensus on 1; the evidence of the past few years has been very strong on 2 and 3; there are no serious studies supporting the view that we’re on the wrong side of the Laffer curve; one form or another of UHC [universal health care] operates all across the advanced world, with lower costs than the US system.
So? You could, as I said, take the “liberal” position on each of these issues while still being conservative in the sense that you want a smaller government. But what the “reformish” conservatives Ryan Cooper lists do, in almost all cases, is either (a) to follow the party line on these issues or (b) to hint at some flexibility – and thereby cultivate an image of being open-minded — as long as the issues don’t get close to an actual policy decision, but to always find a way to support the Republican position whenever it actually matters.
being a good liberal doesn’t require that you believe, or pretend to believe, lots of things that almost certainly aren’t true; being a good conservative does.
Today’s conservatives seem like misanthropes: they want to regulate women’s bodies, deny climate change, tell lies about universal health care in other advanced economies, and advocate austerity while we have unsupportably high unemployment and poverty. So, until that crowd ambles off the stage, and a new crop of reality-based conservatives show up to argue the size and scope of the safety net (and related issues, like the size of the military), there is no reform. There is only the cheap marketing trick of slapping a ‘new, improved’ label on the old box of laundry detergent.
And it’s not fooling anyone.