I hate to sound condescending because I’m a fan of Reihan’s and Ross’s and I’m generally friendly to the new generation of younger bloggers. But, I’m sorry: this is nonsense and it’s a bit representative of what one hears from the super-smart and very young these days. The idea that anyone, anywhere can spot an intellectual trend of any kind and then extrapolate out nearly two years to say that the GOP will or won’t win the presidency because of its refusal to embrace this or that advice is just absurd. Young wonky bloggers love Big Ideas. But Big Ideas are not the North Star of electoral politics, and you cannot navigate by them this far away from an election. ~Jonah Goldberg
Ross has already ably defended the honour and lack of naivete of his co-blogger and a friend of Eunomia, but let me add a few points. When a blogger, especially a young blogger, writes something grand and sweeping about an overall trend (which said blogger understands to be far more complex and is perfectly happy to qualify his general statement when asked to do so), he is deemed naive and in thrall to Big Ideas. When an established pundit or newspaper columnist (such as, say, David Brooks) makes the same sort of broad, overreaching generalisation about a new trend or the direction of American politics (sometimes based on nothing more than an amusing anecdote or two), he might well be described as pithy, insightful or forward-thinking. There are definitely two standards that people apply to standard op-ed political commentary and blogging, and for some strange reason bloggers, whose product is by definition topical, brief and quickly written, are being held to a different and apparently higher standard for nuance, qualification and balance than columnists who not only craft their pieces over a much longer period of time but who get paid to do it. This is not one of those horrendous Hewittian, “The New Media is better than the Old Media” posts, because I hate all of that idiocy, but it is simply to point out that Goldberg here has made a criticism of a blogger that he would not in all likelihood have made of a columnist making much the same argument. This is made all the more silly by the fact that Reihan is substantially right in the point that he has made. Indeed, I suspect that it is because Reihan’s analysis is basically right on target that Goldberg, who is on record all the time saying how little he likes any kind of populism, has responded so negatively to a post that, in its entirety, makes a good deal of sense.
Does the GOP’s need for some kind of economic populist appeal, demonstrated rather painfully by their drubbing in places such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, define the whole of the coming electoral cycle? Obviously not, and Reihan never said any such thing. He made the argument that he and Ross have been making for, well, many years, which is that small-government conservatism doesn’t sell and “strong government” conservatism does, which has the virtue of being true. I don’t like it, but it is true. Ceteris paribus, a GOP that does not attempt to co-opt or develop its own answer for ”lower-middle reformism” or populism is a GOP that is much more likely to lose in a nationwide contest with a party that has started turning to precisely that kind of politics. It will in all likelihood lose the presidential race if it does not address this weakness and instead continues to trot out the old “tax cuts and deregulation” mantra. That does not mean that the GOP doesn’t have a host of other weaknesses (the war, the appallingly bad quality of most of their “viable” presidential candidates, etc.) that might also cripple it. So-called “lower-middle reformism” is a necessary element for GOP success–it may not be a sufficient element. I would imagine that this is part of Reihan’s point, but I expect he will be able to elaborate on his point with his usual panache and the odd musical reference.