I think both writers raise useful points, but also possibly exaggerate the discontinuity between Ryanism and the reformist tendency. Chait and I have gone so many rounds on the True Nature of Paul Ryan over the years that I don’t think it’s worth re-litigating those issues; I’ll just say that from the point of view of conservative reformers, the Ryan who matters (and yes, like all politicians he contains multitudes) has always been the Ryan who did more than any other Obama-era politician to save the G.O.P. from policy unseriousness (and often tried to do still more), rather than a Randian Ryan or an apocalyptic Ryan or any other interpretation of his record Chait prefers. And in this sense, many aspects of Ryanism are pretty clearly foundational for reformers:
The wisdom of his basic vision for Medicare reform is taken for granted by most people in our camp (and, happily, by most prominent Republicans), his 2009 alternative to Obamacare, which failed to win over the party at the time, looks a lot like the health care alternative proposed in the recent Room to Grow compendium, and the broad goal of his famous budgets — reforming the welfare state in order to keep the federal government’s share of the economy within its post-World War II bounds — is a broad reformocon goal as well.
But Beutler expects that, should the GOP obtain real power, a more radical GOP agenda will rise from the dead:
The GOP’s 2011 and 2012-era hysteria didn’t disappear completely. But its legacy is confined to the hardline faction that shut down the government last year and continues to paralyze legislative politics. It also, as Chait notes, has transformed into an equally pitched rebellion against Obama’s supposed lawlessness. I expect this legacy will be well represented in the next Republican presidential primary. It’s just that the prospect of unified GOP control of government—which seemed so very within reach just two and a half years ago—has faded, and taken the strategic allure of doomsaying along with it.
If it returns, Republicans will be lying in wait to do what they had hoped to do over the past year and a half. And the reformocon version of those plans isn’t much different.