In Defense of Mitch McConnell

By Ross Douthat

Well, sort of. As you might expect, I agree with a lot of Ambinder's caustic remarks about the Minority Leader's recent "whither Republicanism" speech. But McConnell, like all GOP leaders, is in an awfully difficult spot at the moment: He's heading up a party that desperately needs a new direction, but whose most loyal and vocal members want nothing to do with anything that smacks of compromise or centrism. In those circumstances, the thing for Republicans in Washington to do is to talk an awful lot about how conservative principles don't need to change (and they don't, broadly speaking), while eagerly embracing new policy options whenever possible. And here McConnell deserves at least a modicum of credit for coming out in favor of the best of the alternative stimulus plans floating around on the right-of-center - namely, some sort of payroll tax cut, which is precisely the sort of small-government populist, Sam's Club-meets-Cato idea that the GOP ought to be embracing, instead of resisting.

The key for Republicans, as Yuval notes today, is to offer not only opposition to Obamanomics but alternatives as well - but those alternatives needs to sound like something other than the Bush agenda redux, or else there's no point in offering them. And on that front, McConnell's doing a better job that some of his colleagues.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2009/01/in-defense-of-mitch-mcconnell/55937/