What we need is an agreement by conservatives on behalf of a conservative welfare state; the hope of Andy McCarthy for a turn-back to before the New Deal is not politically realistic, and would be a futile and self-defeating program for Republicans to adopt. We should be, as Voegeli argues, “against the regulatory state rather than the welfare state.” Or in the words of the late godfather of neoconservatism Irving Kristol, “in our dynamic, urbanized, industrial society, some kind of welfare state is a permanent feature of the industrial landscape.” Voegli also cites the words of the late James Q. Wilson, who wrote:
Telling people who want clean air, a safe environment, fewer drug dealers, a decent retirement, and protection against catastrophic medical bills that the government ought not to do these things is wishful or suicidal politics.
Indeed, one of the very problems about Obamacare is that it regulates too much, and does not allow people to pick and choose from plans that offer catastrophe major medical insurance, but forces people to sign up for plans that include items an applicant does not want or need. Why, for example, would a 60-year-old woman need a plan that forces her to buy one that costs more because it includes coverage for childbirth?
So, let me return to the debate between Krauthammer and McCarthy, and the issue of whether it was wrong for Krauthammer to cite and praise the liberal achievements of the past. Here, Voegeli makes the essential point: “whatever philosophical commitments or policy proposals they bring to the table, the American experiment in self-government is the precarious undertaking conservatives defend. The past and, in many ways, astounding triumphs of that experiment do not guarantee its perpetual success going forward.” And to do that, wise conservatives understand that “defending self-government more often requires opposing than accommodating liberalism,” which explains the consensus to oppose ObamaCare.
It does not, however, entail an all-out assault against the welfare state and many of its popular programs enacted in the past with bi-partisan support. What conservatives must do is show the populace that there are points of no return, and there can be no limitless, ever-expanding welfare state that will leave our nation financially overextended. To the liberal and the leftist, the welfare state is never enough. It must be expanded forever, despite the costs. The conservative knows this is suicidal, and can explain that to the American people. There is a point long past beyond which it must stop. But to oppose the entire liberal project from its beginning is political suicide. This course, which Andy McCarthy proposes, is wrong, and Charles Krauthammer, I argue, wins against McCarthy hands down.