Living Under the Ban

Those of you who are familiar with the formerly-conservative economics writer Bruce Bartlett–who worked in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and held very visible posts at the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute–should definitely check out his succinct apologia at The American Conservative detailing his long road from GOP orthodoxy to becoming perhaps the country’s most acerbic critic of supply-side economics. He writes it as a series of encounters with empirical reality, reinforced by banning from polite conservative society. And he considers the two closely connected, because he is convinced the closed world of conservative political discourse cannot tolerate serious questions, even when it is obvious the conflict between theory and reality has become acute. His conclusion is well worth pondering:

I am disinclined to think that Republicans are yet ready for a serious questioning of their philosophy or strategy. They comfort themselves with the fact that they held the House (due to gerrymandering) and think that just improving their get-out-the-vote system and throwing a few bones to the Latino community will fix their problem. There appears to be no recognition that their defects are far, far deeper and will require serious introspection and rethinking of how Republicans can win going forward. The alternative is permanent loss of the White House and probably the Senate as well, which means they can only temporarily block Democratic initiatives and never advance their own.

I’ve paid a heavy price, both personal and financial, for my evolution from comfortably within the Republican Party and conservative movement to a less than comfortable position somewhere on the center-left. Honest to God, I am not a liberal or a Democrat. But these days, they are the only people who will listen to me. When Republicans and conservatives once again start asking my opinion, I will know they are on the road to recovery.

I get the impression Bartlett is not holding his breath.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.