The conservative dream

by Shihang

Krugman has published an article titled “The GOP’s Existential Crisis“, in which he theorises that the Republican leadership’s inability to make a counter-offer to President Obama is a sign of a lack of direction after the disintegration of the conservative dream of dismantling the welfare state:

“Since the 1970s, the Republican Party has fallen increasingly under the influence of radical ideologues, whose goal is nothing less than the elimination of the welfare state — that is, the whole legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society… [Conservatives thought that] the G.O.P. could exploit other sources of strength — white resentment, working-class dislike of social change, tough talk on national security — to build overwhelming political dominance, at which point the dismantling of the welfare state could proceed freely. Just eight years ago, Grover Norquist, the antitax activist, looked forward cheerfully to the days when Democrats would be politically neutered: “Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they’ve been fixed, then they are happy and sedate.”

O.K., you see the problem: Democrats didn’t go along with the program, and refused to give up…And look at where we are now in terms of the welfare state: far from killing it, Republicans now have to watch as Mr. Obama implements the biggest expansion of social insurance since the creation of Medicare.

So Republicans have suffered more than an election defeat, they’ve seen the collapse of a decades-long project. And with their grandiose goals now out of reach, they literally have no idea what they want — hence their inability to make specific demands.

It’s a dangerous situation. The G.O.P. is lost and rudderless, bitter and angry, but it still controls the House and, therefore, retains the ability to do a lot of harm, as it lashes out in the death throes of the conservative dream.”

Undoubtedly this is an interesting theory, but it will be more interesting to see how it can be justified. Krugman is sounding conspiratorial (as he occasionally does when talking about Republicans) in mentioning a “conservative dream”. Who holds this dream? How was it organised and just how close were they to succeeding? For the way Krugman puts it, it is a plot every bit as subversive as the Russian revolution  but seemingly far more cunning. If it is actually a thing that exists, I’d like to see books in the future about the failed conservative putsch of the late 20th century.