Share

Policy: Economy

Scorched-earth populism and banana stands: Conservative soul-searching after government shutdown

By |
Beltway Confidential,Congress,Timothy P. Carney,Republican Party,Tea Party,Economy,Libertarian Populism,Government Shutdown

After a 16-day government shutdown that seems, from this side, to have been pointless and fruitless, plenty of conservatives are trying to make sense of today's GOP, the Tea Party, and conservatism.

I'm not talking about the K Streeters or the GOP's perpetual scolds of conservatism, but thoughtful people with an interest in a Republican Party that effectively advances conservative and libertarian policies.

For your reading:

1) Jonah Goldberg on the dangers of populism

I have explicitly called on the GOP to be more populist since at least 2009 -- populist in both policy substance (opposing corporate welfare) and in tactics. The shutdown fight employed populist tactics and required a populist trait of not caring what Big Business thought.

Earning the ire of Wall Street doesn't make you a populist, and I don't count shutting down the government or threatening to hit the debt ceiling as "populist policies," but the insurgency here had a populist tinge to it. Which makes it fair for Jonah Goldberg to issue this warning:

The problem with populism is often that it is fueled more by passion than reason, and passion is a fire that is great when harnessed for good purposes. But fire is also always dangerous. The fire of populism has a tendency to ignore worthy distinctions and simply burn for burning’s sake.

2) Ross Douthat worries if there's a path to sanity

The mentality that drove the shutdown — a toxic combination of tactical irrationality and the elevation of that irrationality into a True Conservative (TM) litmus test — may have less influence in next year’s Beltway negotiations than it did this time around, thanks to the way this has ended for the defunders after John Boehner gave them pretty much all the rope that they’d been asking for. But just turn on talk radio or browse RedState or look at Ted Cruz’s approval ratings with Tea Partiers and you’ll see how potent this mentality remains, how quickly it could resurface, and how easily Republican politics and American governance alike could be warped by it in the future.

3) Conservatives are suffering from radicalism envy, argues Scott Galupo

Galupo goes way too far here, but he has good points, and you should read it:

This talk of death spirals, storming barricades, of cleaning the Augean Stables of K Street, of exposing the naked emperors of Wall Street, of constitutional conventions — it seems painfully apparent to me that many folks on the right are suffering from radicalism envy. They are drama queens of the apocalypse.

Movement conservatism has always been half-crazy.

Lately it’s more like three-quarters crazy.

View article comments Leave a comment