Matthew Yglesias writes about Reihan Salaam and Ross Douthat's Grand New Party:
Matthew Yglesias: The Trouble With Sam's Club: [T]he big flaw with Grand New Party... is that its analysis of why the GOP is the way it is.... The book is very good on the nature of the GOP's predicament and on possible ways out of the predicament, but it seems to view the "how did we get here?" issue as... [bad] luck -- Bush wasn't very bright or something.
I think that's wrong. And importantly wrong.... Republicans [do not] literally only care about their super-rich financial backers. But... other impulses Republicans might have are ultimately undermined by the stranglehold that the tax cut jihad holds over the party. At the end of the day, a political party whose politicians all need to portray themselves as "tax cutters" is going to be very limited in its ability to do anything constructive....
[T]he models Ross & Reihan point to... book were governors or mayors during the 1990s who, thanks to the robust economy, were able to cut taxes while also spending non-trivial amounts of new money on programs.... Republicans aren't congenitally incapable... [but] in order to do useful domestic policy stuff... they would need to be freed from the iron grip of tax cut mania.
How hard would it be to do this? I don't know.... John McCain's primary defeat in 2000 and his primary win in 2008 appears to confirm the idea that the GOP is first and foremost a tax cutting party.... [W]hile Grand New Party is... implicitly critical of the "tax cuts ueber alles" forces, its authors seem to believe that those forces are sufficiently powerful that they shouldn't be taken on... head-on...
As I see it, back in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s the spinmasters for Goldwater, Nixon, and Reagan rooted the Republican Party in three beliefs:
- the government is not on your side--the government is on the side of the Negroes
- tax cuts always raise revenues
- the people outside our borders (and the people inside our borders who came from outside our borders) are not our friends
The ramifications of these beliefs have poisoned the entire party. They are the reason that smart well-intentioned Republicans--like George H.W. Bush--turned out to be mediocre presidents; that not-smart but well-intentioned Republicans--like Ronald Reagan (who with the help of his wife and her astrologer partially escaped #3)--turned out to be lousy presidents; and Republicans who were neither smart nor well-meaning--like George W. Bush--has turned out to be either the worst or the second-worst president in American history (depending on what you think of James Buchanan).
The problems are thus deeper than Matt thinks. He sees #2 as the big problem--and sees it as the insurmountable obstacle to making the Republican Party a source of strength rather than weakness and corruption for America. But as I see it, it's only one of three big insurmountable obstacles.
Hence my belief that it would be better to dear the thing down and start again from scratch. Retire the Republican Party, give it an honorable place in American history for its long, successful run from Fremont to Eisenhower. And pass over what has happened since in silence.