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'The Problem with Reform Conservatism'

7:12 AM, May 23, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Matthew Continetti, writing for the Washington Free Beacon:

An intellectually stimulating and potentially historic event was held at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday. House majority leader Eric Cantor, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, and Senators Mike Lee and Tim Scott appeared alongside conservative thinkers and journalists such as Arthur Brooks, Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, Ramesh Ponnuru, Peter Wehner, Yuval Levin, and Kate O’Beirne to discuss “solutions for the middle class.” The AEI panel was noteworthy not only for its content but also for the presence of Republican elected officials. It was the debut, however modest, of “reform conservatism” as a political force.

Plenty has been written about the need for the GOP to adopt economic policies that help middle-class families, and Room to Grow, the book put together by event co-sponsor YG Network, is the best primer I have seen on the various proposals that constitute reform conservatism. I do not doubt for a moment that if the Republican Party adopted Room to Grow as its platform tomorrow, then both the GOP and the country would enjoy a better future.

But that is the problem. Close to six years after Barack Obama’s election, the party as an institution is no closer to embracing the ideas of Salam, Douthat, Ponnuru, and Levin than it was when we celebrated the publication of Grand New Party at the Watergate in 2008. For reform conservatism to have any real-world application, it needs to find a presidential champion. And the prospects of that happening are not what you would call overwhelming.

I do not mean to sell the reformers short. The very fact that this discussion is taking place at all, and that the participants in the discussion include members of the House and Senate GOP leadership, is an achievement. Another achievement is a series of recent speeches delivered by Marco Rubio and Cantor and Lee. Those speeches discussed the importance of work and family, and proposed concrete ways to use the power of the federal government to improve work and family life. The speeches set a tone and established an approach that, in an ideal world (which this is not), would inform Republican campaigns and Republican legislative strategy.

Whole thing here.

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