With his usual refreshing candor, Congressman Paul Ryan went on Sean Hannity’s radio show yesterday and admitted the fact: yes, there is indeed a split in the conservative movement.
Ryan, who said he was supporting Speaker John Boehner’s debt ceiling plan, sounded decidedly not thrilled to be doing so. Meanwhile, as my colleague Jim Antle has noted next door, the pressure is on House Republicans to “Get in Line!” — or, as Speaker Boehner himself confessed to saying — “Get your ass in line!”
To which the stellar Mark Levin responded on his evening show last night, tartly observing that Boehner and his plan weren’t the issue: “How about fighting on principle?” (Here, if you haven’t heard it, is Levin scorching the GOP Establishment last night — it is decidedly worth a listen.)
But in light of Ryan’s admission to Hannity, today’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal is worth noting. The header:
The Road to a Downgrade
A short history of the entitlement state.
The editorial — as far as it goes — is an excellent history of how in the world America finds itself at this exact moment of an unimaginable financial crash. It outlines the creation of the entitlement state and the political wheeling-and-dealings of various liberals from FDR to LBJ to President Obama, and the resulting programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It concludes this way:
This insistence on no reform reinforces the notion that our entitlement state is too big to afford but also too big to change politically. This is how a AAA country becomes AA, the first step on the march to Greece.
But read that editorial again — and see if you can figure out what’s missing, a particular irony when you consider the WSJ‘s editorial yesterday praising the Boehner Plan and including a swipe at the conservatives who oppose Boehner by saying this:
This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP Senate nominees.
As we pointed out yesterday, that “kind of crack political thinking” also elected Marco Rubio over Charlie Crist in Florida, Rand Paul over Trey Grayson in Kentucky, Pat Toomey over Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, and Utah’s Mike Lee over Bob Bennett.
So what’s missing from the editorial?
There is no mention in today’s editorial recounting the history of entitlements telling of those conservatives who fought tooth and nail against the creation of this welfare state in real time. There is nary a mention of the tremendous political heat taken by conservatives, leaders who were thoroughly trashed in the day not just by Democrats but a lot of Republicans. It’s as if Robert Taft, William Knowland, Barry Goldwater, the pre-presidential Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley — and yes the Sharron Angles and Christine O’Donnell’s of the day never existed.
Why is that important?
Because the implications of yesterday’s WSJ editorial and the similar one from Bill Kristol over at the Weekly Standard echo precisely the ridicule and scorn that was directed at opponents of the growing entitlement state from the late 1940s all the way through the 1980 Reagan election and beyond.
The Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannitys and Mark Levins of the day — some elected, some not — were in fact out there in the “old days.” But they were marginalized because they refused to accept the idea that there was no other alternative to a continually growing federal government and an endless rise in the debt.
They paid a price for it, too, politically, socially, culturally. Buckley and Goldwater were frequently depicted as mentally unstable or Nazis, and they were only the more visible ones in the group.
This “Ruling Class” attitude is still out there when it comes to conservatives. But this time Reagan is a national hero, Rush and Sean and Mark have microphones and Fox has the cameras and conservatives like Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan and his sterling staff — not to mention the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth — could care less about the Establishment. And Jordan and staff — chief of staff Paul Teller and others — are catching extraordinary heat for sticking to principle as opposed to worshipping personalities. The idea that conservative idea X is not “reality” is simply a non-starter with many — because they have seen exactly what happened when the wisdom of those conservatives of yesterday was ignored as liberals went on heedlessly building the entitlement state the WSJ documents today.
A lot has changed.
And yet, sadly, nothing has changed. The opposition to the entitlement state as it built apparently wasn’t even deemed important to note by the WSJ.
Which help explains, in its own way, the split Paul Ryan was discussing yesterday with Sean Hannity.