We’re “policy entrepreneurs”. That’s a useful little phrase, that is.
This dynamic is inherently more challenging for those of us on the Right, who have good reason to believe that politicians’ incentives to placate various factional constituencies are so often at odds with the long-term effort to rein in the federal footprint. While political parties can exist as factions rather than ideological entities, conservatism cannot succeed as a factional constituency to a political party.
Several years ago, Ross Douthat identified the Obama-era GOP’s worst tendency as “[n]ot an ideological extremism, exactly, but rather a vision of government that you might call ‘small government for thee, but not for me,’ in which conservatism is just constituent services for the most reliable Republican groups and voters.” This is the worst of Republicanism, and it is incompatible with conservatives’ long-term project.
The GOP could exist as a political party by handing out patronage to its constituent groups—a prescription drug benefit for seniors, corporate agriculture pork masquerading as a farm bill, Export-Import Bank loans to Boeing. Conservatism, however, has no chance of advancing an agenda in this type of factionalized party.
A conservative reform effort, therefore, requires the Republican Party to forego factional politics and the patronage role of elected officials in favor of winning the argument on a conservative articulation of public policy. We must have the confidence that our reform ideas will best serve the nation and, realistically, if the government we have today has been built over 100 years by progressives with a vastly different conception of good policy, it will require attacking the status quo in a manner that makes niche constituencies nervous.
Never mind the pitchforks and torches. They’re just policy implementation enhancers.
Anyhow, this is precisely what I was saying about a year ago. You must cherish your extremists, not turn your backs on them, much less shoot at them. They provide the impetus for advancement; even if they go too far, at least they are going in the right direction.