Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 22, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

THE RIGHT NATION?....I guess I might as well step up to the plate and confess to Reihan Salam that I don't understand about half of what he writes. Then again, I never understood Ulysses, either, so maybe it's my fault. Still, I think I understand what he's saying in this post: that Social Security is fundamentally a bad idea, and if he had his druthers we'd get rid of it.

I imagine a lot of conservatives agree with him, but those with actual constituencies can't admit this in public because Social Security is a popular program. In fact, liberal programs and policies in general are pretty popular. Conversely, as Reihan admits earlier in his post, conservatism is actually "deeply unpopular" surprisingly so considering that conservatives own every branch of the government:

This is why conservative politicians are often forced to use deception to advance conservative policy proposals. Take tax cuts, the heart and soul of President Bushs meager domestic policy. When Bush first came to office, tax cuts were not a particularly high priority for the public. Neverthless, Bush pressed ahead, and the size and distribution of the tax cuts he proposed were, as Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have argued, radically at odds with majority views. Crafted language does the work that ought to be done by argument and persuasion.

I dont agree with Hacker and Pierson on much, but Im a partisan of majoritarian democracy (part of why I dislike activist judges of all persuasions) and I find this unsettling. Had the administration paid heed to public opinion, not out of slavish deference but out of respect, we wouldve seen a different tax cut, and, with any luck, a sustainable popular majority for conservatism. (McCain, incidentally, couldve pulled it off, but you already knew that.)

Aside from the bit about McCain, this is exactly right. Conservatives should be much more concerned than they are at the fact that even now they're unable to win a straight-up argument for so many of their policies. And liberals should be more heartened.

More on this subject here.

Kevin Drum 1:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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