Conservative movement diminishment

The journalist Mark Danner, in a recent NYRB article, argues that though “major Tea Party figures, including Allen West, were defeated, enough were returned that the lineaments of our politics will likely look not dramatically different after the election than before it” (link).

Post-election events, it seems to me, have shown this part of Danner’s argument to be wrong, and the diminishment of the conservative movement to be real. Things have, in fact, changed. Take, for example, the current “fiscal cliff” negotiations, and compare them to 2011’s debt-limit debacle. Back then, the “Boehner Principle” was “spending cuts must exceed debt hike” (link). Today, Boehner is left hoping for spending cuts that equal tax hikes on the rich, making at least one conservative pundit take notice.

Or take the fiscal cliff’s remarkable lack of Paul Ryan, or rather, the lack of talk surrounding his budget. If ever there was a time for the GOP to unleash specific spending cuts upon Obama, upon the media, upon the country, this negotiation was it. The ability to do so was Paul Ryan’s great power: he was supposed, above anyone else, to have the credibility and “seriousness” to address fiscal issues from the conservative movement point of view. Ryan was supposed to make social-spending cuts palatable to national audiences. He certainly won over columnist David Brooks, who in April 2011 called Ryan’s budget, “the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes” (link). Brooks said the budget “will immediately reframe the domestic policy debate.”

But it didn’t work out that way for Ryan. Instead, his budget has been benched. National Review reports that Paul Ryan remained entirely muted as Boehner addressed House Republicans today (link).

Who didn’t speak at the private meeting? A trio of high-profile House Republicans: Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Representative Tom Price of Georgia, and Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the Republican Study Committee. “I have no idea where they stand on this,” says an ally of the three members. “I don’t think they like it, but they didn’t talk.”

Paul Ryan is a talented politician, but hardly a visionary. He bet his presidential future on winning a debate that loses relevance for the presidency every single day. “Big government” vs. “small government” debates have a future only in deeply red counties. In national races, the GOP has learned this debate is counter-productive to their interests. What it does more than anything is turn off urban voters, whose views of government are more practical than conservative movement ideology is willing to acknowledge. Indeed, to me it is clear that the GOP’s quiet but empirically evident uncoupling from the conservative movement’s view of government is bad, very bad, for Paul Ryan’s presidential future. Ryan has no presidential future, at the rate conservative movement ideas are now diminishing.

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This entry was posted in conservative movement, political sociology, politics, The End of the GOP. Bookmark the permalink.

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