The Economist – despite its unerring judgment about books on crime control and drug policy – cannot be justly described a Democratic or liberal publication; it identifies itself as “pro-business, right-of-centre.” But, unlike the friends of plutocracy on this side of the Atlantic, the folks at The Economist believe in principles other than deregulation of enterprise and low taxes on the rich. Moreover, they remain largely reality-based, eschewing wingnut postmodernism.
In the contemporary Republican Party and the increasingly misnamed conservative movement, The Economist sees just about what our local branch of the reality-based community sees:
* “ideas that are cranky, extreme, and backward-looking”
* “the party has been dragged further and further to the right”
* “as the Republican base has been become ever more detached from the mainstream, its list of unconditional demands has become ever more stringent”;
* The individual mandate to purchase health care is a reasonable, and indeed conservative, idea, controversial among Republicans only because the Democrats passed it;
* the hard-right “fatwas explain the rum list of candidates: you either have to be an unelectable extremist who genuinely believes all of this, or a dissembler prepared to tie yourself in ever more elaborate knots (the flexible Mr. Romney)”;
* “compassionless conservatism (slashing taxes on the rich and expenditure on the poor) comes with little thought as to which bits of government spending are useful. Investing in infrastructure, redesigning public education and maintaining unemployment benefits in the worst downturn since the Depression are hardly acts of communism.”
* Mitt Romney “seems several vertabrae short of a backbone.”
In wishing for a Republican candidate they could support in good conscience – a re-backboned Romney, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie – the editors engage in the wishful thinking of imagining that the candidate of a Tea Party-dominated party can avoid being a Tea Party candidate. Might as well imagine someone who drinks all day but is never drunk.
The Republican Party is what it is: plutocratic, irrationalist, nativist, theocratic, tolerant only of bigotry, eager to disenfranchise its opponents. The Whigs – such as the editors of The Economist – will have to choose their side. They can either support increased inequality at the expense of Enlightenment values, or they can say, as the leading article says, “We didn’t leave you; you left us,” and fight for Whig principles of “businesslike pragmatism” (which has been the leitmotif of the Obama Administration) efficient and limited government and personal liberty inside a Democratic Party by no means implacably hostile to those principles.