Unlike baseball managers, writes Robert Patterson in the Washington Examiner, Republican leaders — “the same old roster of political consultants, think-tank policy wonks and losing-candidate types” — don’t get fired for failure. One reason they’ve failed to win elections, and he suggests will continue to fail, is their love of
one big liability: libertarian economics, which has been undermining the Republican brand with the party’s natural middle-class base for years.
Indeed, the failure of Mitt Romney’s economic platform to resonate with an anxious electorate was no fluke. That message represents the heart and soul of a party that started sleeping with far-right libertarians in 1990.
Even those “influential Republican policy wonks,” he says, who
concede the GOP middle-class disconnect, downward mobility and the waning of Midwest manufacturing by Wall Street finance . . . think mostly in terms of party “modernization” or “reforms” of education, health care, welfare and entitlement policy. When they do place tangible policies on the table, the focus remains narrow: helping the poor and illegals, not the vast middle class.
These “libertarian fellow travelers” will not support programs that would strengthen the middle class and create middle class jobs, he continues, because they are afraid these programs would “increase federal spending, strengthen private-sector trade unions or damage the free-trade regime.” Instead,
the party falls back on familiar turf: fiscal, tax and regulatory matters. So the best that Republicans can muster are static plans of budget balancing in distant out-years, like those of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which shortchanges middle-income families with more tax breaks for the wealthy and scaled-back popular earned-benefits programs.
Which means, he concludes, that the Republicans will “never make the playoffs, let alone win the White House.” One doesn’t want to say “never,” but he has a point. Hard libertarianism isn’t a winning philosophy, except among some testosterone-poisoned single twenty-something males.
Mr. Patterson’s is an ideological analysis, treating the effects of the Republican commitment to “free market absolutism,” but one with a darker view than he does might note that political failure doesn’t hurt the “political consultants, think-tank policy wonks and losing-candidate types” personally at all — there is always money to be made —and the ability to act in permanent opposition may profit them a great deal. There are people who will pay well to see hard libertarianism advanced. Ideas become popular for a reason.