Why The Right Fights

tags: Republican Party, government shutdown



Ross Douthat is a columnist for the New York Times.

To understand how we ended up in this strange political moment, with the federal government shuttered in pursuit of a political goal that most elected Republicans concede is well-nigh-impossible to achieve, it’s worth talking not only about polarization and redistricting and the conservative media landscape and anti-Obama sentiment and the weakening of institutional party power, but also about a more basic, often-underappreciated element in how many movement conservatives regard the history of the last forty years....

For the American mainstream — moderate and apolitical as well as liberal — the Reagan era really was a kind of conservative answer to the New Deal era: A period when the right’s ideas were ascendant, its constituencies empowered, its favored policies pursued. But to many on the right, for the reasons the Frum of “Dead Right” suggested, it was something much more limited and fragmented and incomplete: A period when their side held power, yes, but one in which the framework and assumptions of politics remained essentially left-of-center, because the administrative state was curbed but barely rolled back, and the institutions and programs of New Deal and Great Society liberalism endured more or less intact.

This divide, I think, explains a lot of the mutual incomprehension surrounding size-of-government debates. To liberals and many moderates, it often seems like the right gets what it wants in these arguments and then just gets more extreme, demanding cuts atop cuts, concessions atop concessions, deregulation upon deregulation, tax cuts upon tax cuts. But to many conservatives, the right has never come remotely close to getting what it actually wants, whether in the Reagan era or the Gingrich years or now the age of the Tea Party — because what it wants is an actually smaller government....



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