Opposing the idea of ideas

OPPOSING THE IDEA OF IDEAS…. It’s one thing to propose bad ideas. It’s something else altogether to insist that proposing ideas is itself a bad idea.

One the one hand we have former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who’s pushing a 12-point “American Solutions Winning the Future” agenda. It is, to be sure, weak tea. The policies are little more than a warmed over conservative wish-list that could have been written years ago: tax cuts, more tax cuts, undermining unions, financial deregulation, and drill the coasts for oil.

Gingrich is, however, at least trying to be taken seriously on public policy. It’s not working, but he’s giving it his best shot. To hear Rush Limbaugh tell it, that’s the problem — the right needs to stop being so substantive.

“Everybody asks me, and I’m sure it’s been a focal point of your convention, ‘Well, what do we do, as conservatives? What do we do? How do we overcome this?’ … One thing we can all do is stop assuming that the way to beat them is with better policy ideas. […]

“Our own movement has members trying to throw Reagan out while the Democrats know they can’t accomplish what they want unless they appeal to Reagan voters. We have got to stamp this out within this movement because it will tear us apart. It will guarantee we lose elections.”

So, what are we left with? A far-right Republican with bad policy ideas, and another far-right Republican who wants to give up on policy ideas altogether. One is failing to win a debate on the merits, and the other believes debating the merits is itself pointless.

These are the perspectives of the two of the most influential conservative “leaders” in the country.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.