1. I wish Pete could get before Republican leaders and yell at them about their rhetorical failings. They’re at least as clueless as he says.
2. Most people don’t care about the tax rate on the rich, because they assume they don’t really pay it. And usually they don’t.
3. Calling Obama a socialist or even a “progressive” isn’t effective. In some ways he’s for bigger government. But not he’s not for “History” and against the “individual” in the way the real socialists were. And the suspicion here that what this kind of rhetorical appeal really means is that the whole welfare state is unconstitutional because the Founders wouldn’t have wanted it.
4. Republicans somehow have to make the hard point that the entitlement structure of the current welfare state is unsustainable. It wasn’t so under the demographics of, say, 1962. We can’t afford what we have now, and so what we have has to be mended in ways that might or might not be intrinsically choiceworthy but are certainly necessary.
5. Someone might say an alternative to the approach of Levin and Capretta might be a huge tax increase on the middle class. An increase large enough to really make that big a difference difference would cripple the economy. And I don’t see it becoming popular. Obama or his successors generating a coalition of envious dependents is not a realistic scenario. So the Democrats these days aren’t really about implementing some brave new progressive vision but delaying the inevitable. They remain the reactionaries, even more than the Porchers. But the huge rhetorical problem is that people are always about delaying and diverting themselves from unpleasant futures.
6. So the Republicans have to work on the upside of devolving what entitlements there are to individuals. They actually need to talk about the benefits to the self-employed. The world coming into being is all about being self-employed, as opposed to career loyalty to a paternalistic employee or a personal corporation or a unionized industry or even government. Tenure and pensions of every kind are toast. This world is NOT in every respect a wonderful new birth of freedom, but our institutions have to in many ways be adjusted to it.
7. Can Republicans even talk candidly about the birth dearth without blaming it on anyone? They can be all for shoring up intermediary institutions by freeing up the family and religion and local government from bureaucratic regulation and sophisticating dissing. But finally we have a pretty intractable crisis in “voluntary caregiving”—intractable at least in the short term.
8. As Pete says, it seems to be above the pay grade of Republicans to focus attention on the degradation of American political deliberation caused by ROE. But before we get all psyched up about Robby George etc. say about who the embryo is and what marriage is we have to create the “space” by which these issues are decided by citizens talking to each other. When the Court decides, it WILL decide on a Lockean or “autonomous individual” understanding of rights.
9. So Republicans, I repeat, have to be for judicial restraint pretty much across the board. And so they have tone down, at least, wanting the Court to protect them from affirmative action or ObamaCare or abuses of eminent domain. Pete is right that the Republicans have the branding problem of seeming to want to protect white people (or rich white men) against a genuinely inclusive understanding of citizenship represented by our African-American president. Republicans can respond that there’s nothing more inclusive than their individualistic understanding of the Constitution. And that’s even true, but they have to accept the burden of trying to persuade blacks, Hispanics, and gays that it is true.