I find it amusing that Matt Yglesias has pointed to a column I independently wrote as evidence that “Mike Pence is already trying to gin up support for a leadership bid in the wake of a GOP electoral defeat.” Pence may be angling for a leadership post, and I hope he obtains one, but I had absolutely no contact with Pence’s people in writing the piece.
More substantively, Yglesias calls the analysis that the Republican Party needs to return to its limited government roots “pretty daft” adding that “if the GOP really does react to defeat by moving in the direction of Pence-ism, I think they’ll find it doesn’t help them.”
Putting aside the fact that that there is a moral case to be made for supporting small government, adhering to a small government philosophy makes for good politics. Ronald Reagan won landslides in 1980 and 1984 by running on a small government platform. Bush I won in 1988 when he ran as Reagan’s heir, but lost in 1992 when he broke his tax pledge. The Republicans won control of Congress in 1994 promising “the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public’s money.” Bill Clinton may have won re-election in 1996, but he did so after declaring the “the era of big government is over” and signing Welfare Reform. President Bush may have veered toward big government conservatism in 2000, but he still had to woo small government voters with tax cuts. The post-9/11 elections have been dominated by national security, which has helped Republicans maintain support of conservatives despite big spending, but this year we are starting to see more of an erosion of support for the Republican Party among conservatives as a result of their abandonment of small government. The bottom line is that since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, Republicans have done pretty well running as defenders of limited government. On the flipside, during the same time period, the Democrats have not won a single election running on progressive themes. In fact, the sole Democratic president of the past quarter century was able to win only by sounding like a proponent of small government.
C’mon, who’s being “daft” in their analysis?