Two Steps Back For GOP Reform

It’s been a bad week for Republican reformers. First, Justin Amash and Tim Huelskamp were silently kicked out of their House committees. Second, young staffer Derek Khanna was fired (Khanna authored the brave copyright reform memo that I praised along with thousands of others before it was swiftly deleted.)

Some say the conservative committee members were booted for being too far to the right at a time when Republican leadership is trying to compromise on a budget deal. But Amash seems to think it’s because the leadership is more willing to raise taxes than cut the bloated defense budget. If Amash came too close to upsetting the special interests of defense, maybe Khanna came too close to upsetting the special interests of entertainment.

It’s nothing new to see the “party of small government” rejecting attempts by its members to actually turn it in small government directions. But if the GOP needs to become more “moderate/left” to survive, it’s especially ironic that the leadership only seems to be toying with the big-government policies to their left (ex. raising taxes) while rejecting all of the small-government opportunities (ex. cutting defense spending).

Republicans don’t have to embrace taxes and entitlements to attract more voters. Cutting the defense budget, ending the war on drugs, reforming copyright, restoring civil liberties – these are all “small-government” policies that are popular with both liberals and independents. The GOP could embrace these libertarian views and reduce their many hypocrisies while broadening their appeal without compromising their ideals; there are may libertarian-leaning conservatives trying to do just that.

But that requires the GOP to reject the special interests that foster those hypocrisies, and they still seem unwilling to do so. It’s not surprising, but I think it’s a sad and ultimately self-defeating strategy. The battle is yet young, however, and if the reformers’ goals are as self-evident as I think they are, I have hope they will eventually succeed.

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