Tomasky Shifts Ground

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The other day, Michael Tomasky faulted a group of conservative writers, including me, for “never, ever, ever” pointing out the fact, which he considers obvious, that “the current GOP is off its rocker” and driven by intolerance, stupidity, resentment, paranoia, and rage. I responded that it was unreasonable to suggest that a conservative cannot exert a positive influence on politics unless he attacks the vast bulk of conservatives as insane. Tomasky now says I missed his point, which is ”that the GOP (its elected legislators and the base they feed and fear) is actively and aggressively against the 47 percent and especially the poor, and its warfare mentality will permit very little real change along these lines because those are the Democrats’ people.”

This seems to me to be a very different, though also false, argument, and it renders his earlier statement even more off-base, since (for example) I have said over and over again — and well before Romney made his gaffe — that conservatives are wrong to consider the 47 percent “the Democrats’ people.” The fact that they aren’t ”the Democrats’ people,” along with the fact that Republicans get a lot of votes from non-college-educated voters, seems to me to offer more hope than Tomasky allows that the party will find a way to apply limited-government principles in a way that addresses these voters’ economic concerns. But neither I nor any of the other writers Tomasky is criticizing has ever said that getting Republicans to do this would be easy.