Monday, January 25, 2010

The Conservative Way

Liberal politicians and their cheerleaders in the media are fond of repeating the mantra that Republicans have no ideas of their own and are simply content with being obstructionist. (For example see the reference to the NY Times' Bob Herbert in my previous post). Senator Lamar Alexander (R - Tenn.) debunks this notion in an article written for NRO. Alexander states that Republicans understand that reform is necessary in many areas including health care, energy policy and immigration policy. However, he rejects the Democrats' "comprehensive" policy approach to problem solving, as it neglects the Law of Unintended Consequences. He argues that Republicans' contrasting incrementalist approach is more prudent and effective.

On health care, clean energy, debt reduction, and immigration, Republicans have been offering an alternative to thousand-page bills: going step-by-step in the right direction to solve problems in a way that re-earns the trust of the American people.

The Democrats’ comprehensive immigration, climate-change, and health-care bills have been well-intended, but the first two collapsed under their own weight, and health care, if it doesn’t do the same, will be a historic mistake for the country and a political kamikaze mission for Democrats.

What has united most Republicans against these three bills has been not only ideology, but also that they were comprehensive. As George Will might write: The. Congress. Does. Not. Do. Comprehensive. Well.

Alexander goes on to show that Republicans have offered alternative proposals only to have them dismissed without consideration by the majority Democrats.

If you examine the Congressional Record, you will find that Republican senators have been following (political scientist James Q.) Wilson’s advice, proposing a step-by-step-approach to confronting our nation’s challenges 173 different times during 2009. On health care, we first suggested setting a clear goal: reducing cost. Then, we proposed the first six steps toward achieving that goal: (1) allowing small businesses to pool their resources to purchase health-care plans, (2) reducing junk lawsuits against doctors, (3) allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines, (4) expanding health savings accounts, (5) promoting wellness and prevention, and (6) taking steps to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse. We offered these six proposals in complete legislative text totaling 182 pages. The Democratic majority rejected all six, and ridiculed the approach — in part because it wasn’t “comprehensive.”

And in July, all 40 Republican senators announced agreement upon four steps to produce low-cost clean energy and create jobs: (1) create 100 nuclear power plants, (2) electrify half our cars and trucks, (3) explore offshore for natural gas and oil, and (4) double energy research and development.

This step-by-step Republican clean-energy plan is an alternative to the Kerry-Boxer National Energy Tax, which would impose an economy-wide cap-and-trade scheme, driving businesses overseas to look for cheap energy and collecting hundreds of billions of dollars each year for a slush fund with which Congress can play.

Many, if not most liberals don't understand conservatism. They believe that it's a reactionary ideology* espousing rigid adherence to the status quo and resistance to any change. A significant number of liberals go further and claim that conservatives are hateful, racist and lack compassion. This belief is reinforced when a fringe character like Pat Robertson makes idiotic comments about Haitians deserving their recent earthquake disaster. But Robertson isn't a serious mainstream conservative any more than the "truthers" who believe that George Bush planned the 9/11 attacks are serious mainstream liberals. I won't go so far as Ann Coulter and say that if Democrats had any brains they'd be Republicans. But many more would be if they seriously evaluated conservative ideas and policy prescriptions.


* In his latest column in National Review, John Derbyshire included this witticism.

André Gide liked to scandalize enquirers by saying: “Je ne suis pas tapette, monsieur, je suis pédéraste!” (“I am not a fairy, sir, I am a pederast!”) In a similar spirit I am sometimes tempted to assert: “I’m not really a conservative — more of a reactionary.”

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