The GOP Needs A Little of Everything

Ross Douthat offers an entry in the Claremont Review debate over the future of conservatism. He's inspired me to more thinking. Pending that, here's Ross:

The Republican Party needs a plan to prevent entitlements from swallowing the American economy, but the evidence of 2012 suggests that it also needs what any successful political party tends to need — namely, realistic policy responses to the problems that loom largest in Americans’ everyday lives right now. These responses should be consonant with limited-government conservatism, and compatible with the attempt to keep public spending from growing at its current pace. But the problems such policies should be intended to solve are not the same as the problem that entitlement reform is designed to solve, and a successful Republican Party would show signs of understanding that distinction. There’s more to public policy than fiscal roadmaps, and it should be possible to correct America’s fiscal course while also displaying policy imagination on questions like work-life balance, health care access and affordability, the cost of college, social mobility, and so forth.

Republicans need some version of Frum’s modernization, in other words, not as an alternative to Voegeli’s broad commitment to keeping government within its historic limits, but as a complement to that commitment. And the two visions really can be complementary. Absent entitlement reform, there will be no money left for the “limited but active” government favored by many moderate Republicans to do anything except pay retirees’ health care bill. Absent a policy agenda more capacious and responsive than entitlement reform alone, there will be no Republican majority capable of implementing any sort of Medicare overhaul whatsoever. What’s needed is not an all-out conflict between the two visions of the G.O.P. future, but a synthesis that furthers both.

As the saying goes, you'll want to read the whole thing.