Maybe the trouncing of establishment Republicans by Tea Party conservatives will chasten some of the RINO (Republicans in Name Only) attacks on Tea Party candidates and their allies. But right up until yesterday, establishment Republicans were positively dripping in their snide insults of conservative leaders and candidates within the Republican Party.
Now, snide insults very often begin with a compliment, like: "He's a great dresser, but he's so dumb he can't tie his shoe."
So went the attack in the New York Times Wednesday against a frequent Scoreboard guest, Congressman Paul Ryan. New York Times columnist David Brooks, who the Times tolerates as a generally moderate Republican, spent a full column criticizing a piece that Ryan wrote with Arthur Brooks about how big government is a threat to America and inimical to our founding principles.
David (who I once worked with at The Wall Street Journal) started off his attack, like most insults, with a compliment: "My admiration for both (men) is unbounded. Yet the story Republicans are telling each other, which Ryan and Brooks have reinforced, is an oversimplified version of American history, with dangerous implications."
Wow! Just one sentence after expressing his "unbounded" admiration for Ryan, David attacks the congressman as a simpleton and a dangerous threat to our Republic. But what's so dangerous about limiting the growth of government? It’s the one idea in the Tea Party movement that most Americans feel pretty comfortable with.
But a Ronald Reagan-like vision of limited government apparently scares the hell out of David Brooks and other moderate Republicans, who've been fighting the Tea Party tooth and nail.
Brooks even suggests that Ryan's vision of limited government is anti American: "The fact is, the American story is not just the story of limited governments; it is the story of limited but energetic governments that used aggressive federal power to promote growth and social mobility."
This idea of embracing “aggressive federal power” isn’t new to David Brooks and his branch of the Republican Party. They gravitate toward a more paternalistic form of government. They admire Teddy Roosevelt and other presidents who often extended the reach of federal power to achieve goals they thought were good for Americans, even if Americans didn’t like it or realize it at the time -- kind of like forcing an unpopular health-care reform law, because Americans aren’t smart enough to figure out how good it will eventually be for them.
I call that arrogance. Others call it “responsible, energetic government.”
The attacks against Ryan and the Tea Party are the same kind of attacks Republicans used against Ronald Reagan before he became president. "He's a nice guy," establishment Republicans would say, "but he'd be a very dangerous leader."
Well, he turned out to be a nice guy and a great leader. Even Moderate Republicans grew to love him. But the paternal instincts of some Republicans can skew just as close to the nanny state as some Democrats -- just look at New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The fact that these elitists have to adjust to is that most Americans don't take their cues from “those who know better.”
There’s a very healthy skepticism about “those who know better,” after those who know better in Washington and on Wall Street got us all into so much trouble. Voters are simply responding to the realities of an economic and political culture that has taken Americans unwillingly from an American vision of limited government towards a European-style social welfare state.
Americans don't like this kind of government and they don't like the nanny state. They proved it again in New York and Delaware this week. And odds are they'll prove it en masse in November.