Republicans now openly condemn the bailout programs Bush initiated for banks and auto companies. Members of Congress look on the No Child Left Behind Law with suspicion. Few will defend the Medicare prescription drug benefit; and the only acceptable party line now on immigration reform is “No Amnesty.”…
And in last week’s New Hampshire presidential debate, the Republican field even edged away from the Bush administration’s activist foreign policy, condemning the intervention in Libya and calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan. It adds up to a comprehensive and unmistakable rejection of the Bush legacy – and above all, of Bush’s platform of “compassionate conservatism” that was supposed to give the GOP a permanent electoral majority.
Where I differ, of course, is on the necessity for pragmatism and accountability along with a return to core principles.
Pragmatism means cutting the Grand Bargain of the 21st Century: tax reform, revenue increases, and entitlement and defense cuts. You cannot take away one of these three legs and hope the stool will stay upright. By insisting on new no revenues, the GOP is not taking responsibility for its own role in creating this debt, is ignoring the real dangers of total gridlock, and refusing to play an adult role in resolving it. By never offering anything substantive to restrain healthcare costs or to insure more Americans, the GOP is unserious on healthcare policy. By refusing the only solution to immigration – tighter border controls and a path to citizenship for those already here – they are merely making amnesty a reality while making the lives of many hard-working people and their US-born children more precarious.
They are lurching from a betrayal of conservatism to an embrace of a parody of it. At some point, one hopes, they will achieve more of a balance.