Note how many deficit hawks regularly trash President Obama for not endorsing Simpson-Bowles while they continue to praise Ryan — even though Ryan voted to kill the initiative when he was a member of the commission. Here again is the double standard that benefits conservatives, proving that, contrary to establishment opinion, Obama was absolutely right not to embrace the Simpson-Bowles framework. If he had, a moderately conservative proposal would suddenly have defined the “left wing” of the debate, just because Obama endorsed it.
This is nuts. Yet mainstream journalism and mainstream moderates play right along.
A brief look at history suggests how far to the right both the Republican Party and contemporary conservatism have moved. Today’s conservatives almost never invoke one of our most successful Republican presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who gave us, among other things, federally guaranteed student loans and championed the interstate highway system.
Even more revealing is what Robert A. Taft, the leader of the conservative forces who opposed Eisenhower’s nomination in 1952, had to say about government’s role in American life. “If the free enterprise system does not do its best to prevent hardship and poverty,” the Ohio Republican senator said in a 1945 speech, “it will find itself superseded by a less progressive system which does.” He urged Congress to “undertake to put a floor under essential things, to give all a minimum standard of decent living, and to all children a fair opportunity to get a start in life.”
Who can doubt that today’s right would declare his day’s Mr. Republican and Mr. Conservative a socialist redistributionist?
There’s a part of me that is all in favor of the GOP going completely batshit crazy, hoping that they drive the moderates, independents, and those who don’t live within the World Net Daily and Fox News bubble away like they were selling anthrax on a stick. But if the mainstream media and Very Serious People nod their heads and say, “Well, they may be nuts, but the other side does it too,” they can go as bonkers as they want and still be seen as a viable alternative to reality.