Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Tremendous powers of denial

Senator Jeff Flake, Republican from Arizona, has written a book critical of his party. He was on Morning Edition on NPR yesterday. He also wrote an opinion piece for Politico.

A few of his points. First from his NPR interview:

When the GOP got into No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription drug benefit (which wasn’t funded, driving up debt) the party could no longer claim to be for limited government. That prompted the party to abandon several other principles, such as free trade and American leadership around the world.

And from his Politico article:
It was we conservatives who rightly and robustly asserted our constitutional prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government when a Democrat was in the White House but who, despite solemn vows to do the same in the event of a Trump presidency, have maintained an unnerving silence as instability has ensued. To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial.

If by 2017 the conservative bargain was to go along for the very bumpy ride because with congressional hegemony and the White House we had the numbers to achieve some long-held policy goals—even as we put at risk our institutions and our values—then it was a very real question whether any such policy victories wouldn’t be Pyrrhic ones. If this was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it. If ultimately our principles were so malleable as to no longer be principles, then what was the point of political victories in the first place?

We have taken our “institutions conducive to freedom,” as Goldwater put it, for granted as we have engaged in one of the more reckless periods of politics in our history. In 2017, we seem to have lost our appreciation for just how hard won and vulnerable those institutions are.

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