William Tucker is right to praise their discussion of health care reform, but to call the Douthat/Salam Weekly Standard cover-essay “an absolutely fabulous article” is a bit much. A great deal of their argument for a government-friendly overhall of the GOP platform is terribly wrongheaded, and underpinned by two fundamental mistakes.
Their first mistake is assuming that because the GOP is “a party whose constituents are surprisingly comfortable with bad-but-popular liberal ideas like raising the minimum wage, expanding clumsy environmental regulations, or hiking taxes on the wealthy to fund a health care entitlement,” it follows that pandering to those impulses is politically critical. But voters aren’t policy wonks. Pandering on one issue or another can lead to short-term gains at the ballot box, but Douthat and Salam admit that the GOP doesn’t need any fixing in the short term (“The current Republican majority isn’t likely to be defeated, or disappear, in the next few election cycles”). In the long run, it’s the results of an economic policy that determine its political viability.
Their second mistake is thinking that most of their policies would lead to good results. I won’t pick through each one here, but Matt Yglesias, who (because he’s a liberal) likes a lot of Douthat and Salam’s ideas, is quite correct to note that you’d have to raise taxes to pay for them.
The America’s Future Foundation, by the way, is hosting a debate on this topic Wednesday; Douthat will be on the panel.