Commenting on Ramesh Ponnuru, Jonathan Chait gives me an opportunity to quickly summarize my "The Republican Party is going the way of the Whigs" argument.
Chait points out that GOP electeds are not ignoring the policy suggestions of would-be party reformers like Ponnuru. Instead, the Reaganist GOP is currently engaged in fighting for the opposite policy goals. For example, Ponnuru suggests the GOP could shed its image as heartless plutocrats by advancing an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit.
One problem with this plan to get Republicans to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit is that, as Ezra Klein points out, they’re currently fighting extremely hard to cut the Earned Income Tax Credit. Ponnuru’s column doesn’t mention this highly relevant detail.
In other words, if the GOP wants to survive long term, they need to first imagine what they would normally do, and then do the opposite, ala George Costanza.
But Chait goes on to (parenthetically) observe that change is impossible:
Obviously, Ponnuru’s policy goal here is admirable. It would be lovely to have a Republican Party that was not monomaniacally focused on redistributing income upward. (How such a reform could be pulled off without upsetting the basic parameters of the party — no new taxes, high military spending, no cuts for current retirees — is a problem none of the reformists have answered and that probably has no answer.)
The "problem that has no answer" is point one in the following two point argument: 1. There are structural forces pushing the GOP to be more Tea Party that cannot be changed or countered. 2. There are inexorable demographic realities that will, state by state, make it impossible for Tea Party style candidates to win general elections. (See, eg, GA in 10 years will be majority black/Latino.) 3. Therefore, the Republican Party is doomed.
Please note: we need at least two healthy parties. Something will replace the GOP in the same way that the GOP replaced the Whigs.
Update: In a response to a response, Chait refuses to follow his facts to their logical implication:
In fact, I do not believe that the goal of making Republican policy less hostile to the poor is certain to fail. Indeed, I don’t even think it’s likely to fail. I believe the most likely scenario for the party is a return to George W. Bush-ism, combining more lenient treatment of the poor with favorable tax and regulatory policies for the rich, and forgetting about deficits, which Republicans only care about when Democrats hold the White House. I actually argued this not long ago, and I know Douthat read it because he publicly disagreed.
This is wrong. Conservatives are right to say that Chait's argument implies they are doomed. Chait shouldn't hedge w/ fantasies about the Tea Party going silent as soon as a white Republican is in the White House. He should be like Hume, who took Locke to his logical conclusion, and became history's greatest philosopher.