Thou shalt read Jennifer Rubin's open letter to Republican leaders, including some Ricochet faves. It's a piercing cri de coeur, but it also helps beg a huge question. Why has the GOP establishment been so passive and ineffective this election cycle?
This week I take a stab at an answer: the politics of prosperity is an inadequate response to the present moment, to Obama's presidency, and to the public imagination in an age such as ours. It should be obvious that this is not an 'attack on free enterprise' but a critique of a social theory implicit in a campaign strategy.
Prosperity is wonderful, but it is subsidiary to liberty and derivative of it. RedState's Dan McLaughlin recently made an arresting, outside-the-box argument that the GOP establishment is composed of those (in whatever class, of whatever degree of party power) "who have thrown in the towel" on government spending. But we get more explanatory power from a view -- which I think is borne out by the facts -- that the establishment is composed of leading party figures who believe prosperity ought to be the brand promise of the GOP for two big reasons: first, because prosperity is the root promise of America; second, because Republicans can't take and keep power with a different pitch.
It seems to me that both those justifications are based on mistaken premises and lead to unfortunate formulations, even from some of the GOP's most impressive and unsinkable men. (A right to rise, Paul Ryan? Really?) The lesson is not to jettison prosperity or turn against economic dynamism but to advance a campaign narrative that puts those things into their proper perspective -- not simply for logical reasons, but because, as Tocqueville helped us to understand, only certain grand themes fully capture the public political imagination in what he called the democratic age. Alas, prosperity just isn't one of them -- however strongly many Americans prefer it to the alternative.
When party leaders grasp this, this race will really be off to the races. Until then, the establishment seems destined not to come through in the clutch.