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Former Conservative: Right-Wing 'Stupidity and Closed-Mindedness' Will Doom the GOP

Bruce Bartlett pens a devastating critique of the Republican Party’s slide to the right over recent decades.
 
 
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Bruce Bartlett on Bill Moyers' show.
Photo Credit: BillMoyers.com

 
 
 
 

A one-time pusher of Reagan-style supply-side economics and a former writer for the Wall Street Journal has penned a devastating critique in The American Conservative of the Republican Party’s slide to the right over recent decades. While it is well known that Bruce Bartlett was a dissenting conservative, the article lays out his evolution and critique of the Republican Party in a way not articulated by Bartlett before.

Bartlett began his political life fully ensconced in conservative politics. He worked for libertarian Republican Ron Paul as well as the founding father of supply-side economics, the theory of “trickle-down economics” that many economists say contributed to the economic crisis. But a series of events transformed his political outlook, an avowedly right-wing one. And the reaction from the right was to throw him “under a bus.”

The first big event that Bartlett says was the impetus for his decision to publicly dissent against the GOP was George W. Bush’s decision to push for an expansion of Medicare to pay for prescription drugs for seniors. Of that decision, Bartlett writes: “I was shocked beyond belief when it turned out that Bush really wanted a massive, budget-busting new entitlement program after all, apparently to buy himself re-election in 2004.” After the legislation passed, Bartlett “felt adrift, politically and intellectually. I now saw many things I had long had misgivings about, such as all the Republican pork-barrel projects that Bush refused to veto, in sharper relief.”

Bartlett also blasts the “epistemic closure” of the right. As an example of this, he points to the fact that he was quoted in the New York Times magazine criticizing the Bush administration. While Karl Rove called his boss to “chew him out,” his conservative colleagues had no clue that Bartlett was quoted in the Times--because they didn’t read it and “they all viewed it as having as much credibility as Pravda and a similar political philosophy as well.” Bartlett says he was “flabbergasted” by the lack of reaction.

But Bartlett eventually made his views known to the world when he wrote Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy. He was fired from his think tank, the National Center for Policy Analysis, because of the manuscript of his book.

“Among the interesting reactions to my book is that I was banned from Fox News,” Bartlett writes. “I later learned that the order to ignore me extended throughout Rupert Murdoch’s empire.”

Now, he’s using the lessons he learned over the years to critique the Republican Party’s right turn. “So here we are, post-election 2012. All the stupidity and closed-mindedness that right-wingers have displayed over the last 10 years has come back to haunt them,” writes Bartlett. “At least a few conservatives now recognize that Republicans suffer for epistemic closure. They were genuinely shocked at Romney’s loss because they ignored every poll not produced by a right-wing pollster such as Rasmussen or approved by right-wing pundits such as the perpetually wrong Dick Morris.”

However, on the whole, the Republican Party is not “yet ready for a serious questioning of their philosophy or strategy...There appears to be no recognition that their defects are far, far deeper and will require serious introspection and rethinking of how Republicans can win going forward.”
 

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

 
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