War on the Brain

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Daniel McCarthy (seconded by Brian Doherty) joins Paul Gottfried in projecting their obsessions onto me: “Wage stagnation is a long-term problem, but there’s little evidence that it contributed to the GOP’s defeat in 2006; certainly Ponnuru provides none. It sounds like a device to minimize the role foreign policy played in the GOP’s descent. The Ponnuru line is that Republicans should do more of what he likes — bribing the middle class with dubious social programs like Medicare Part D or mandatory retirement savings programs (a great handout to Wall Street) — while ignoring the uncomfortable truth that a war Ponnuru supported cost his party dearly.”

McCarthy gets one thing right: I provided no evidence that wage stagnation made voters less enchanted with the ruling party than they would have been if wages had been growing. Of course, the point is obvious and needs no elaborate evidence. As for “ignoring” the Iraq war, I explicitly mentioned it. Anyway, the idea that people would forget that the war played a role in the 2006 defeats if I didn’t mention it is peculiar. As is the idea that I “like” the expansion of Medicare. Actually, I think that intelligent political analysis has to distinguish between what the analyst likes and what voters like.

Actually, make that two things McCarthy gets right. “It certainly is a myth that Republicans lost in 2006 or 2008 because they were too big government, but small-government ideology, which was neither preached nor practiced then, can hardly be blamed either.” I agree! That’s why I never said anything to the contrary.

He finishes with an attack on. . . somebody. “The truth that hardly gets spoken is that certain Republican pundits who consider themselves social conservatives have a vision for this country that amounts to a hybrid of European-style Christian Democracy and Chilean semi-privatization of the welfare state, along with a values-hyping foreign policy delegated to outright neoconservatives and a managerial-therapeutic approach to the poor.” None of this remotely describes me. Or anyone I know, with the possible exception of Michael Gerson. Maybe that’s why it “hardly gets spoken.”