What are we to make of the House Republicans' "Pledge to America?"
Veteran pundit Michael Barone is mildly complimentary. He writes that the Pledge has two pretty serious proposals, to roll back discretionary spending to 2008 levels, and repeal ObamaCare.
But Andrew McCarthy thinks it's a cop-out. "It's big wind, little rain," he complains.
Listen, retorts Jonah Goldberg, it's just an opening bid.
Hey, fellahs, this is politics. You do things a step at a time. The Republicans cannot tell the American people that we'd like to rip the welfare state out by the roots, even if we do eventually want just that. It would just scare the pants off them.
Sure, we believe that the liberal culture of compulsion should be repealed, and that the natural sociability of the American people should replace the force and injustice of the liberal administrative state.
But here's the big difference between conservatives and liberals. We want to persuade the American people, step by step, that a voluntary, sociable society is better than a compulsory centralized state.
Our liberal friends, as they have just demonstrated with ObamaCare, don't believe in stuff like that. They believe that the way you get social change is to hustle the American people into a vast expansion of government and create new special interests to defend the new order so that, when the American people find out what ObamaCare will cost them, it will be too late because the special interests will take out any politician that dares to cross them.
It's important to understand the difference. Social democracy is the triumph of the compulsory and the powerful expert. Then there is middle-class democracy. For middle-class democracy, the process is the point, not the destination.
Can we reform the welfare state? Will the American people ever agree to give up their entitlement benefits in return for freedom and voluntary, shared provision of necessary social goods like education, health care, and relief of the poor? Nobody knows. But the American people certainly don't like the idea of the sudden, overwhelming increase in government power and spending under the Obama administration.
And that's a start.