Thursday, February 28, 2013

Catch of the Day

Well, it was yesterday, but nevertheless: conservative columnist Philip Klein notices that there's no health care panel at the upcoming CPAC shindig and says that for most conservatives, interest in health care policy turned out to be a "fad":
The biggest conservative policy victories, such as the advancement of supply-side economics in the 1980s and welfare reform in the 1990s, came when conservative intellectuals and activists rallied around ideas at times when liberals didn't have compelling answers to important problems. But conservative activists often disregard health care as a liberal issue -- unlike taxes and guns -- and only become engaged when liberals attempt to advance big government solutions.
Klein's argument is basically that when conservatives cede policy to liberals, liberals tend to win. Sounds correct!

Kevin Drum argues that "conservatives actually don't care much about healthcare. Just like they don't care much about income inequality or particulate poisoning." On the one hand, one has to be very careful with these generalizations; certainly there are some conservatives do care about these issues. But Drum is correct in his larger point, which is that conservatives, as a movement, really don't seem to care about, well, very many of the major substantive issues affecting most US citizens at all. Symbolic issues? Yes. But substantive issues? Just taxes, and perhaps inflation. Nothing else seems to really get conservative interest going.

And, yes, I'm excluding both budget deficits and jobs. Budgets I've talked plenty about, so I'll skip that, but jobs? Lots of rhetoric; lots of opposition to whatever Obama proposes; very, very, little in the way of actual policy ideas of their own. And again, that's not something inherent in conservative thought; Reagan era conservatives did have real ideas on many of these topics.

Anyway, Klein has been consistent on this one, including bashing House Republicans during the last two years when they ignored their promise to put forward a "replace" bill for ACA and settled for repealing it a few dozen times. Nice catch!


  1. How about national security issues, in particular the ins and outs of particular weapons programs or military policies?

    I remember Matthew Yglesias arguing that conservatives are much more interested in those issues by temperament, so that it can be as hard to find a liberal national security expert as it is to find a conservative expert on the environment or health care. I think his idea was that the question of what issues you care to learn the most about is not unrelated to the question of what position you'll take on any given issue. Sounds plausible to me.

    1. That sounds right to me. If you look at liberal think tanks (with some exceptions, like the Stimson Center), often the only foreign policy issues that you will find relate to trade, human rights, immigration, and the like. Those that do delve closer to national security are more likely to focus on arms control (in which case, most of their adherents will be of near-retirement age), UN peacekeeping, or conflict resolution.

  2. I could definitely see this. It seems that for conservatives the dialogue on healthcare and such seems more symbolic, a matter of talking points and party platform, more than real substanstive stances.

    Ali Olomi, UCLA


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