Inside the conservative identity crisis

The GOP’s health-care reform plan looks like a Democratic caricature of what a Republican plan ought to be. Does it take money from the poor to hand it to the rich? Yes. Does it make countless people worse off? Yes. Does it cut coverage? Yes.

So many conservatives have so internalized the progressive critique that they act it out. They’ve been told for so long by progressives that to be conservative is to be a jerk that they actually think that the way to be conservative is to be a jerk.

For literally decades, conservative heroes like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman have set out ways by which a society can achieve a universal safety net in health care, while at the same time achieving conservative goals that I deeply believe to be paramount, such as consumer choice and innovation. You don’t need to snatch people’s health care away from them to achieve the conservative vision of health care. But, again, conservatives have internalized the progressive critique, and if progressives are for universal coverage, then conservatives must be against universal coverage. This phenomenon is most obvious in health care, because it is where technocratic considerations are so intertwined with our deeply held moral intuitions of fairness and empathy, but you see it in other areas, too. President Trump’s budget guts “soft power” American initiatives, since progressives like soft power; this even though a great 20th century master of the use of American soft power was Ronald Reagan, whose unabashed rhetoric of America as a City on a Hill did as much to crack the Berlin Wall as his arms race with the Soviet Union.

The end result of this psychological cul-de-sac is bills like the AHCA, which seem almost specifically designed to turn Republicans into punching bags, and to vindicate the progressive critique of conservatism.