The Corner

Reform Conservatism and Cantor

I got an email asking how Cantor’s defeat affected the “reform conservative” project, and thought I’d share my reply here. (Ross Douthat took on the same topic today.)

Cantor fell victim to the tea party-establishment battle that we are trying to transcend, and in particular to the establishment wing’s conviction that what Republicans need to do above all is modify their stance on immigration: a conviction that is divisive and, because it is false, unnecessarily so.

I regret his defeat because he had been supportive of reformist ideas, especially in recent months. The demands of reaching a consensus in his conference precluded him from being as out front on these ideas as some senators have been, but he helped to bring attention these ideas by, for example, speaking at AEI when Room to Grow was released.

Ironically, perhaps, one of the main themes of Dave Brat’s campaign against him—that Republicans are too identified with big business—is one of ours as well. I think Republicans, and Cantor specifically, might be in a different place if they had done more, earlier, on a Main Street agenda.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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