Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rove's Newsweek Debut

Newsweek has hired Karl Rove as the blogging counterpart to Markos ("Kos") Moulitsas Zúniga. In his debut piece for Newsweek, Rove describes his plan for "How to Beat Hillary".

I gave up on Newsweek long ago, and I saw their hiring of Kos as just more of the same. My initial reactions to the Rove hire were:
  • Do they really think Kos is in the same intellectual universe as Rove?
  • Who the heck wants to read what Rove has to say now that Bush has basically crashed and burned?
While Rove certainly had a point in his earlier proclamation that Republican Congressional scandals (rather than the war) pushed some voters to flee the GOP in 2006, I still think that was a fundamentally disingenuous read of events. I expected Rove to be just as essentially disconnected from reality when he began writing for Newsweek. Viva MC Rove!

I was mostly wrong about that. Rove lays out classic, time-tested advice that will work in the best or worst of times. My only gripe is about the following segment:

Tackle issues families care about and Republicans too often shy away from. Jobs, the economy, taxes and spending will be big issues this campaign, but some issues that used to be "go to" ones for Republicans, like crime and welfare, don't have as much salience. Concerns like health care, the cost of college and social mobility will be more important. The Republican nominee needs to be confident in talking about these concerns and credible in laying out how he will address them. Be bold in approach and presentation. [emphasis added]

Herein lies the basic existential crisis for the Republican party. For the vast majority of "sellable" candidate plans for these issues, government action will cause more harm than good. Health care could cost less if there were fewer state mandates and people were able to save 15% by using Geico from out of state like they can for car insurance. The cost of college is so high in part because supply is inelastic and demand is subsidized by state and federal government grants and guaranteed loans. And there's very little the government can do about social mobility apart from funding mass transportation in urban areas and making sure K-12 education is as good as it can be, and clearly those efforts have limited effect.

Rove is saying, as others have, that Republicans need to play the Democrats' game of redistribution and nanny-statism. That may win an election here and there, but it's a long-term loser because nobody does redistribution better than the Democrats.

The long term success of any party honestly attempting to represent the principles of limited government and free trade must communicate those principles effectively. I'm not hearing much of that from our current crop, save for Fred Thompson, who so far seems to lack the enthusiasm to convince anybody of anything. Somehow the Democrats gained a lead on the issues of jobs and the economy. A populace that thinks the Democrats are better than Republicans on those issues needs to hear a heck of a lot more from Republicans than what Candidate X says about the cost of college.

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