National Review’s Ramesh Ponnoru and Rich Lowry have attempted the difficult task of finding middle ground between the fighting camps of the Great Republican Civil War. They call it “Against Despair,” and it has been making the rounds in the conservative blogosphere. Instapundit linked approvingly (albeit with a cross-link in praise of Ted Cruz) Erick Erickson at Redstate calls it a betrayal of Buckley’s legacy, which is a lamentation I have been hearing with increasing frequency since the Old Man died.
I don’t know how true that is, but I do think the Ponnoru-Lowry Axis, and others of their ilk, have misread the moment. The issue is not, as many would like it, to be a matter of tactics. Tactics is determining how you fight. Today’s intra-party squabble is about whether the GOP has any plan to fight at all.
The NRO editorial grasps this, but not firmly:
The federal government seems constantly to expand even as — and sometimes because — it proves itself incompetent. Republicans have done precious little to reverse or even halt the trend. Obamacare is a disastrous and unpopular law; but if the Republican party has a strategy for bringing about its eventual end, it has been kept well-hidden.
But they go no further. They spot the symptoms, but will not diagnose. Which is to say, they bury the diagnosis in jocularity:
These have been long-standing themes on the right. When our people get power, they immediately stop being our people, the great conservative journalist M. Stanton Evans quipped decades ago.
But then they argue that isn’t true anymore, because today’s congressional leadership is super-conservative. Severely conservative, you might say. They buttress this point with statements of what the leadership is in favor of.
Today’s Republican party has a bolder plan to rein in our fastest-growing entitlement program, Medicare, than Ronald Reagan did, and that plan has the support of such establishment Republicans as John Boehner and Mitt Romney. What they don’t have are the votes to enact it. Today’s Republican party is more committed to confirming judicial conservatives and blocking judicial liberals than it has ever been. (Compare the confirmation votes on Robert Bork and Samuel Alito, or Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.) It just isn’t in a position to win those fights. Replace Mitch McConnell as Senate Republican leader with Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who led the defunding brigades, and that would still be true.
Let us parse this: in the past, Republicans would ape conservatism to get elected, but then fail to deliver conservatism when in office. Today, we have a bunch of really, really conservative guys, but they can’t do conservative stuff, because they need more Republicans in office. Give us that, and we will reform the crap out of entitlements. For realsies.
I’m afraid not. You want my vote, you need to prove to me that you’re going to do something worthwhile with it. You need to show me that you’ve actually got the minerals for a fight, that you have the plan and are ready to provide the leadership to see said plan through. At this moment, I don’t trust that the leadership (which by the editorial’s admission, has failed to lead) has those things. I want evidence of the will to fight before I exert a finger on your behalf.
I held my nose and voted for two establishment-picked compromise candidates who, surprise surprise, lost elections to an impassioned progressive. I gave my votes and my vocal support to George W. Bush, and have the scars to prove it. What did I get for my trouble? Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, and K Street playing Conservative Kabuki.
And now I am enjoined once more to carry the scorpion across the river.