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June 04, 2013 11:23 AM Erickson Versus Barro

By Ed Kilgore

You may hear more as the day goes by about Erick Erickson’s nasty-gram aimed at Josh Barro as a representative of “elitist” writers getting attention as “conservative reformers” because liberals agree with them. Barro has responded by calling Erickson and the millions of hammer-headed conservatives who think like him “derpy,” which is certain to provoke more hostilities.

Aside from noting that Erickson’s having himself quite the caveman’s binge lately, I’d simply note that the whole “conservative reform” thing is a multiple threat to ol’ Erick’s power base. The “reformers” trade in ideas more than rage. They pay attention (more or less) to how conservative policy proposals actually work, whereas to the Ericksons of the world anything that shrinks or disables government is self-evidently a good idea. And of course, most “conservative reformers” aren’t in a position to bully people into agreement or silence, and that’s ultimately what Erickson’s all about.

But there’s another beef Erickson probably has with people like Barro and other pointy-headed heretics from hipster-land: they’ve stolen his brand!

Yes, back in the day, Erickson used to be fond of labeling his favorite hammer-headed pols “conservative reformers.” This was particularly useful in the South, where the idea was that “conservative reformers” (Nikki Haley and Karen Handel, both big role models to Erickson, were particularly useful examples) were purging the GOP of the Big Government habits the “good ol’ boy” GOP Establishment had brought over from its Dixiecrat heritage.
The beau ideal of the type of “conservative reform” was probably Jim DeMint, who demanded a puritan vision of conservatism free from the latitudinarian pollution of transactional Republican politics.

Perhaps because DeMint, now from his perch at the Heritage Foundation, now stands astride both the conservative movement and the GOP as an immovable colossus, it’s getting harder and harder for those wishing to stamp out heresy on the Right to pose as “reformers” rather than would-be political bosses. That’s a psychological problem for people like Erick Erickson, who wants very badly to be a political boss but also sees the advantage of flailing The Man as a “reformer” or a “populist.” So someone like Josh Barro is sure to attract his furious attention every time.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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