The Richard Cohen Test

Those who read the January/February issue of the Washington Monthly probably recall that much of it established a Republican presidential victory this November is likely to move American government in a profoundly more conservative direction. As Paul Glastris noted, this cuts against a deeply held belief central to the Beltway conventional wisdom:

The attitude of official Washington is that politicians will behave like politicians and avoid extreme actions that will lose them the next election—and if they do overreach, the other party will win and take corrective action. But what the Beltway elite doesn’t understand is that the Tea Party only needs two years in power to make the changes they have in mind—changes that would be destructive, far reaching, and in many ways tamper-proof. Even if they then lose, their antigovernment agenda will live on.

It’s noteworthy, then, that the columnist who often defines the Beltway Conventional Wisdom, WaPo’s Richard Cohen, has a column today arguing against any supposition that Mitt Romney has the motivation or the capacity to “move to the center,” as a candidate or as a president:

The forces that shaped him in the primaries and caucuses will not go away. He has been clay in the hands of the political right, and this will not change.

Wow. When an unconventional proposition passes the Richard Cohen test, you know it’s got a lot of power.

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.