The Crony Capital

Main St. Agenda by from The Weekly Standard, June 23, 2014

This year’s turbulent primary season, which hit a crescendo this month with David Brat’s upset victory over House majority leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, is an opportunity for conservatives to reflect. Why have our political leaders struggled so much to capture the enthusiasm of the conservative grassroots? Why did Republicans fail to win power in the last national election, despite wide distaste for the president’s signature legislation? Is the Tea Party’s agenda the solution to that failure or the problem? To many observers, the answers are both obvious and discouraging: The messages most appealing to the conservative base do not resonate with the general public, and the messages most likely to sway swing voters do little to energize conservatives. The movement is trapped in a double-bind.

This view is wrong. Not all of the concerns of today’s grassroots are fundamentally about left versus right, and not all political appeals to the center are bound to alienate conservatives.

For too long, conservatives have lazily substituted rhetoric about free markets and lower taxes for the hard work of identifying and eliminating structural obstacles to economic dynamism. That work is uncomfortable, as it forces conservatives to come to terms with claims made more often by the left than the right about our political and economic systems. But it is necessary, and not just as a corrective to the left’s misguided arguments; it will also lead to sounder public policy.

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