If the conservative movement’s domestic policy vision ran from Ponnuru on the right to Brooks on the left, well … Andrew might not be happy with the result (though I think his differences with both men are often more a matter of emphases and rhetoric than policy substance), but I’m pretty sure the GOP wouldn’t be staring disaster quite so squarely in the face. ~Ross Douthat
I take what I think is Ross’ point about domestic policy inflexibility, but in what ways have the movement and the Republicans really refused to attempt to advance a domestic policy agenda that stretches from Ponnuru to Brooks? Has it been too much on Ponnuru’s side, or too much on Brooks’? As a dissident looking in, I have the sense that it may be the fact that the movement’s policy agenda is so narrow in that it can only join together people as “far apart” as Ponnuru and Brooks. My impression is that you could fit such a “big tent” in the average backyard with lots of room to spare.
Domestic policy is much more Ross’ cup of tea than mine, so I imagine he has examples I’m not thinking of, but what policy initiatives should they have undertaken that they have instead rejected out of fidelity to the imaginaire of the conservative champion Reagan and their alleged stubborn George Allen-like orthodoxy? Also, would these desirable changes in domestic policy priorities have helped stave off or noticeably ameliorate Iraq and corruption-induced defeat last year? Is savvy, inspired domestic policy ever enough to significantly reduce the damage from a failed foreign policy venture?
If avoiding disaster is the goal (as one might assume it would be), shouldn’t conservatives and Republicans be thinking of ways to go “back to Taft” (or maybe back to La Follette!) in foreign policy rather than pursuing the somewhat chimerical Goldwater-Reagan redivivus? The former would seem to have more of a natural constituency and more immediate practical application. That being the case, isn’t it rather odd that almost all Republican presidential candidates are not terribly critical of the current direction of foreign policy, but all of them have numerous divergences from the old smaller government, lower tax mantra? The presidential field seems to be taking stabs at the sort of domestic policy innovation I believe Ross is referring to in his post, but will any of it matter if they, the party and the movement remain overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in Iraq “until the job is done”?