What’s disappointing to those outside conservatism’s ranks is that the reformicons are so often defensive.
With occasional exceptions, they have been far more interested in proving their faithfulness to today’s hard-line right than in declaring, as conservatives in so many other democracies have been willing to do, that sprawling market economies need a rather large dose of government. Conservatives, Levin says, are “eager to build on the longstanding institutions of our society to improve things.” Good idea. But somehow, the successes of decades-old governmental institutions in areas such as retirement security, health-care provision and environmental protection are rarely acknowledged.
Many Republicans, especially reform conservatives, know that most Americans who criticize government in the abstract still welcome many of its activities. Yet stating this obvious fact is now politically incorrect on the right. Conservatives who condemn political correctness in others need to start calling it out on their own side. Otherwise, Scott Walker’s artful redefinition of flip-flopping could become the 2016 Republican debate’s most creative intellectual contribution.