Here is David Brooks for today. He’s got a good point.
The Republican Party has a problem this election year. It’s the governing party, but it lacks a governing philosophy.
The G.O.P. used to have a governing philosophy: reducing the size of the state. This was a useful goal because it was the one thing all Republican factions could agree upon. The business community wanted to reduce the public sector because it stifled growth. Social conservatives wanted to shrink the nanny state because it produced dependency. Libertarians and populists wanted to reduce government because it gave too much power to bureaucratic elites.
But reducing the size of government can no longer be Republicans’ animating principle. In the first place, many of the worst excesses of government have been addressed. It’s harder to argue that government programs reward bad behavior after welfare reform. It’s harder to argue that government stifles economic growth after a generation of tax-rate reduction and the awesome boom of the 1990’s.
But the main reason reducing the size of government can’t be the party’s animating principle is that Republicans have no credibility on this subject. During the Reagan years, Republicans tried to cut the size of government and failed, then blamed the Democrats controlling Congress. In 1995, Republicans tried to reduce the size of government and failed, then blamed the Democrats controlling the White House. Now Republicans control everything, and over the past three years the size of government has still increased, not even counting the war on terror.
Brooks goes on to say that there is one 21st Century Republican who has outlined a domestic vision — Georgia W. Bush.
Much like us Apple fans are inundated with rumors prior to MacWorld San Francisco, we political types are inundated with rumors over the State of the Union. We’re increasely hearing that, what Brooks suggests, is coming. Bush intends to reform Social Security, Medicare, Welfare, etc. by offering choice and accountability. See this for example.