The Economist on the Republicans

They see what we see: a party increasingly dominated by cranks and by cranky ideas.

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.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

5 thoughts on “The Economist on the Republicans”

  1. It continues to seem to me that reasonable conservatives, like the Economist editors, are trapped by some combination of aesthetics and tribalism that befuddles me. I suppose I’m missing the tribal identification gene or something – I find it as icky and disturbing in partisan Democrats or socialists as I do coming from Republicans (or libertarians, but I repeat myself), and have no problem confronting the fact that Obama gets my vote only because there is no alternative. Despite his appalling record on civil liberties, his expansion of the executive, normalization of some of the worst of the Cheney whitehouse, his weird screwups on the economy, and indifference to worsening intellectual property conditions that are going to strangle technology and the US Internet, Romney would actually manage to be worse.

    Welcome to the land of the free, and happy new year.

  2. Ditto what Jamie said. It usually takes a lot for people to leave their party.

    On the positive side, at least there is some semblance of a public discourse still happening here, or really, over there I suppose. Things could be worse. We have a few moderate Republicans left, and we just have to put them in George Bailey’s basket and stick them in the safe overnight and hope they procreate, speaking metaphorically of course.

  3. Mark: No kidding, I read this article this morning and was going to blog about it tonight, it’s sitting next to me now.

  4. The Economist is simply a pack of right-wing liars, without the USAian extreme religious beliefs, and with that British accent which makes Americans think that the speaker is smart.

    Look at this paragraph: “Rather than answering the call for a credible right-of-centre, pro-business party to provide independents, including this newspaper, with a choice in November, it is saddling its candidate with a set of ideas that are cranky, extreme and backward-looking.”

    The ‘credible right-of-centre, pro-business party’ exists, and is called the Democratic Party.

    It’s even worse than if a person familiar only with US politics were to write this, because by the standards of UK politics, the US Democratic Party is rather right of the (UK) centre.

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