March 14, 2014


The Republican Party is becoming the party of ideas again (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, 3/14/14, The Week)

For years, a bunch of right-of-center reformers -- including yours truly, but most prominently Yuval Levin, Reihan Salam, Ross Douthat, Ramesh Ponnuru, and others -- have been promoting innovative conservative policy ideas on every front: health care, taxes, unemployment, social policy, you name it.

Left-of-center writers seemed to think they could just dismiss these ideas out of hand because no actual lawmaker in the GOP was adopting them. And for awhile, that was true. But to these Democratic-friendly pundits, it wasn't just that the GOP didn't adopt these ideas. It's that the GOP couldn't adopt them. Why? These writers didn't put it in so many words in public, but basically their sense was that the problem was that Republicans are dumb. Republican politicians would never take on innovative policy ideas because their base is made up of a bunch of backward troglodytes and their paymasters are robber barons only interested in tax cuts. And in any case, to be a Republican is to have little interest in new ideas -- or ideas, period.

That narrative was always way too shallow and convenient. But even if it was once kinda-sorta right, a few things have happened to upend it. First, the 2012 election exposed the fact that, to survive, the GOP really does need new ideas. Second, a man like Paul Ryan went from being a congressman little known outside the Beltway to a figure of national prominence to a spot on a national ticket by actually promoting interesting, new (and courageous) policy ideas.

Then Tea Party Sen. Mike Lee came out with a number of bills reprising key conservative reform ideas, in particular the idea of expanding the child tax credit.

But what's happening now is most interesting: Presidential candidates are competing on policy. Rand Paul has done it, scrambling lines on foreign policy and the security state, reaching across the aisle on sentencing reform, and calling into question the Drug War. Marco Rubio, previously best known for pushing the boring old idea of immigration reform, has adopted a key conservative reform plank, wage subsidies, and other interesting ideas like a regulatory budget. Meanwhile, Ryan still pushes his policy wagon, unveiling new initiatives to fight poverty.

Posted by at March 14, 2014 1:47 PM

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