Robert Draper’s New York Times Magazine story about young libertarian Republican operators sympathetically presents their side of a long-standing ideological divide. Republican elites in Washington and among the party’s fund-raising base have always cared far more about taxes and regulation than have the party’s voting base. The protagonists of the piece present the split as generational, but I’m pretty sure that 30 years ago, Republican operators in Washington were more fired up to reduce government and less enthused about social issues than were the party voters. The youngsters also want to modernize the party's use of the Internet, which wouldn't help, but they seem to blend that into their ideological preferences, thus lending them the futuristic sheen of inevitability.
Draper quotes David Plouffe explaining that economic policy, not social issues, held together Obama’s coalition. (“It’s their economic policies and health care. The group that supported the president’s health care bill the most? Latinos.”) None of the Republicans in the story seem to engage with this at all. They obsessively decry the party’s opposition to gay marriage, a marginal issue in the campaign, while avoiding any mention of the 47 percent comments, the party’s opposition to regulating Wall Street, or the unpopular tax cuts for the rich Romney had to endorse in the primary. This quote actually reveals how misplaced their analysis is:
Did Jacobson really expect the Rick Santorums of his party to let a new generation of Republican leaders tell them what to accept and how to behave?
Okay, a couple things. First, the plural of “Santorum” is not “Santorums.” It’s “Santora.” Come on, people. Didn’t anybody take Latin?
Second, a sad little has-been in a sweater vest is not holding the Republican Party in his hands. Whose agenda defined the Mitt Romney campaign? Was it Santorum, with his immediately forgotten message of no gay marriage and manufacturing tax credits? No, it was Paul Ryan, the man who crafted the party’s economic platform and had to be placed on the ticket.
One of the young guns confesses:
“I hate all regulations, every single one of them” — including, he cheerfully admitted, minimum-wage and child-labor laws.
Yeah, go ahead and try running on a platform of that, plus support for gay marriage, in 2016. Let us know how it works out for you.