‘Reformocons’: How Conservatives Should Stop Worrying and Love the Debt Bomb


It’s not exactly a shocking revelation that liberals are interested in supporting Republicans who want to drag their party to the Left, especially after a historic midterm election where liberalism got its posterior kicked sideways.

Give the Left credit for springing into action after just a few days of freaking out at the stupid voters, and writing tear-soaked screeds about how we probably shouldn’t have stupid midterm elections anyway, or maybe we shouldn’t even have Congress–at least not when a liberal Democrat is president.  After screaming into their op-ed paper bags for a brief interval, they set about undermining the Republican wave by seeking to convince the winners that they should behave like losers.  There are plenty of receptive ears in the Republican power elite for that message.

Thus, we have Peter Beinart, writing at  in praise of the “reformocons,” i.e. Big Government-friendly Republicans whose primary mission is to run urbane GOP candidates with good resumes, who can lose gracefully to Democrats, with a minimum of pinched-face scowling from debate moderators during the next presidential campaign.  They thought they had someone like that in 2012, but then Mitt Romney had to go and do well in a debate, and Obama screwed up in Benghazi, and Candy Crowley had to rush onstage as a volunteer Democrat political operative to save Obama’s hide.  We don’t want anything like that again, do we?  Better to have a Republican candidate who agrees with Democrat dogma about 90 percent of the issues, so the whole election will boil down to a personality pageant, which the media have already decided the Democrat will win decisively, no matter who it is.

Beinart heaps praise upon former Karl Rove aide Peter Wehner, who is making a strong bid to be Barack Obama’s man in the GOP.  As Beinart puts it, Wehner’s recent New York Times op-ed establishes an “important role” for him in the “reformocon” movement, which is “urging conservatives to be less crazy” – a mission that must be undertaken with great caution, of course, lest the crazy people take umbrage at their political diagnosis.  You know how prone to hypothetical violence those people are in the fevered liberal imagination!  Why, they’ve been accused of everything from theater shootings and IRS office attacks to the Tucson horror and Boston Marathon bombings!  They didn’t actually do any of those things, mind you, but liberals with bylines accused them of it, and when liberals blow such a great volume of smoke, there’s got to be a fire somewhere.

Beinart’s knees crash together when Wehner quotes some crazy talk from Teahadist icons:

America is “very much like Nazi Germany,” in the words of Ben Carson, a Tea Party favorite. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said we had a couple of years to turn this country around or “we go off the cliff to oblivion.” Mark Levin, a popular radio talk show host, warned that Republicans were “endorsing tyranny” if they didn’t support shutting down the government in 2013.

Dr. Carson, who should know better than to use the Nazis as props in a contemporary discussion – and does, since in the same conversation Wehner extracted five words from, he said, “I know you’re not supposed to say ‘Nazi Germany'” –  was making a point about the rising tendency of the politically correct to intimidate people out of speaking freely.  Wehner would leave his readers with the impression that Carson sees jackbooted stormtroopers and concentration camps right around the corner, but what he decried was “a society where people are afraid to say what they believe.”

He could have cited all sorts of contemporary news examples to make that point, rather than dragging the Nazis into the conversation.  That’s not a failure of intellect, and it doesn’t make his point insane; it’s a rhetorical mistake, and one that liberals are not at all shy about making, having invested decades of effort in re-defining the National Socialist German Worker’s Party as “right-wing” or “conservative” somehow.

(It’s enormously entertaining to spell out what the Nazi acronym stood for and watch liberals dissolve into puddles of sweat, blubbering that it’s all just a coincidence, a failure of translation, and Hitler’s crew didn’t know what phrases like “socialism” and “worker’s party” meant.  For added fun, Beinart unwisely starts talking about fascism later in his post.  My advice to any Obama supporter who finds himself in a serious discussion among knowledgeable historians about the economic philosophy of fascism is to pull the nearest fire alarm and run as fast as you can.)

Ted Cruz’s warning about incipient oblivion can be defended with reference to spreadsheets and budget projections.  To some degree, everyone’s opinion about the course of the decades to come, on the Left and Right, is a mixture of existing conditions, projections, and ideological leanings; whether such a projection is arguable or fanciful depends a great deal on how a strong word like “oblivion” is defined.  Given that liberals tend to break out such words when one percent reductions in the growth of spending are proposed, and Cruz isn’t talking about the collapse of North America into Road Warrior gangs and cannibal hordes, it’s not a term that automatically discredits itself.

There’s lively disagreement about exactly how many years we have left before systemic failure becomes inevitable, but there is a point in the near future at which every debt projection agrees the fiscal assumptions underlying the modern debt-fueled, non-budgeted mega-State go haywire.  Isn’t it better to defuse such a fiscal bomb long before it detonates?

In fact, isn’t it necessary to defuse it before it goes critical?  The sort of “progressive” government growth model liberals champion is based on subduing the populace and making them dependent upon government goodies, creating an electorate hard-wired to vote against fiscal restraint.  The more entrenched that social programming becomes, the harder it will be to make necessary course corrections.

It might already be too late; on any other day, Beinart and his pet “reformocons” would be triumphantly arguing that it is too late because the relationship between citizen and State has already been irrevocably altered from the Founders’ ideal of a dignified, limited Republic at the service of independent citizens.  Actually, Beinart gets into that territory by the end of his demand for conservative “sanity,” right in the very same piece where he castigates everyone from Cruz to Ronald Reagan for warning about the dangers of allowing government to socially engineer the electorate with dependency programs.  We’ll come back to that in a moment.

As for Mark Levin, he’s unquestionably correct that presidential violation of the Constitutional separation of powers is “tyrannical”; that is a term the framers of the Constitution used to describe impositions from a remote government far less burdensome than anything mad old King George thought about dumping on his colonies.  Exercises of power do not become less tyrannical just because a given observer approves of the end goal.  You won’t have to take my word for that for very long; just wait until a Republican president tries to use Obama’s extra-legal powers for conservative ends, and you’ll hear it from liberals and “reformocons” at a very high pitch, and much less historical context, than Mark Levin offers.

Also, it should be noted that in the broadcast Wehner refers to, Levin did not say that Republicans were throwing in with tyranny if they refused to shut down the government; he wanted them to use the power of the purse, which the Founders lawfully and advisedly granted to them, to oppose Obama’s power grabs, and he viewed a partial government shutdown as an unfortunate possible consequence.  It’s not something he, or any Republican, wanted.

This is all supposed to follow a straight line of apocalyptic lunacy from the early days of the conservative movement, according to Beinart:

Actually, an apocalyptic view of American life is the very thing that propelled conservatism to power in the first place. During the middle of the 20th century, the conservative movement operated at the outskirts of the Republican Party. It was one faction within the GOP, but not a majority. It may have slightly preferred Republicans over Democrats, but National Review (the central magazine of that movement) denounced President Eisenhower about as sharply as Glenn Greenwald denounces President Obama today.

This all ends up in a lecture about “empiricism,” which is pretty rich coming from the people who lied through their teeth to saddle America with a disastrous healthcare program, slapped another $8 trillion on the national debt to little visible benefit, left the national security frontier unguarded against a rising tide of Islamist terror, told us turning one career position into two part-time gigs constitutes “job growth,” squeezed their eyes shut whenever the consequences of unrestrained illegal immigration darkened their view, thought $2.50 gas was an impossible fantasy, and squealed about “recovery summer” arriving at long, long, long last every time the workforce contracted enough to nudge the top-line unemployment rate down another tenth of a point.

What Wehner and Beinart describe as “sanity” is the embrace of an inept, irresponsible, unsustainable style of Big Government that has little support among the people who are expected to pay for it.  Both establishment Republicans and liberal Democrats completely abandon this notion of “sanity” during elections and pretend to be far more conservative than they actually are.  That’s because they know the American people wouldn’t buy anything they were selling if they advertised it honestly.

We taxpayers have seen what the Big Government machine can do, and frankly we’re not impressed.  We’re not impressed by me-too Republicans who just want to ride in the rumble seat of that machine.  They’re primarily interested in charging a few billion on Uncle Sam’s overdrawn credit cards to buy goodies for their cronies.  Their campaign strategy is based on cadging a few votes from disgruntled citizens by posturing in public as reformers of a corrupt and insolvent system, while privately admitting they think all the great debates were settled decades ago, and resistance to the collectivist consensus is delusional.

You can’t really blame liberals for tossing a few bouquets to liberal establishment Republicans; if the far-left Democrat Party ever manages to cough up a few real moderates again, conservatives will probably hail them as “reformocrats” come to drag their party back from madness, too.  But the central logical contradiction of Beinart’s praise for Wehner and his “reformocons” is that for all the talk about rationalism, empiricism, and robust debate, the message here is that there’s no pulling out of the death spiral.  The remorseless political dynamic of dependency is set in stone, freedom taken will never be returned, and no degree of failure from Big Government – not even the endless slipping-on-a-banana-peel comedy of Obama’s second term – will give America the energy to change course until it runs aground on the rocks of insolvency and social deterioration.  All the “sane” people agree that all is lost, and this is the best we can do.

Which would mean the conservative doomsayers of the Goldwater era were right, wouldn’t it?  They predicted the insolvency and corruption of the Great Society and its crippling effect on the American soul pretty well.  They were off on the timing on a few things, four decades out, but now that our sane and empirical elites tricked us into accepting a Medicaid expansion we never would have agreed to, by offering miraculous cost-cutting reforms of paid private insurance, we’re going to find out the early conservative prophets weren’t off by all that much.  The last thing we need is either another Democrat or the Republican caffeine-free version of a Democrat sold to us by the same kind of “reformocon” thinking that swooned over the sharp creases in Barack Obama’s trousers.


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