Bill Kristol points out the difference between small‐government conservatives and big‐government conservatives like him. Among other things:
- If you’re a small‐government conservative, you’ll tend to oppose the bailouts, period. If you more or less accept big government, you’ll be open to the government’s stepping in to save the financial system, or the auto industry.
- Similarly, if you’re against big government, you’ll oppose a huge public works stimulus package. If you think some government action is inevitable, you might instead point out that the most unambiguous public good is national defense. You might then suggest spending a good chunk of the stimulus on national security.
Kristol goes on to claim that the Republican Revolution collapsed because the GOP tried to cut government (notably some minor Medicare cuts). President Bush, on the other hand, “seemed to learn the lesson.” Among his other successes, “he proposed and signed into law popular (and, it turned out, successful) legislation, opposed by small‐government conservatives, adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.”
Undoubtedly, in Kristol’s world, it is President Bush’s commitment to bigger, more expensive, and more intrusive government that has brought about his soaring approval ratings. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress were losing because they cut spending to the bone, abolished pork, turned down earmarks, and generally behaved like Barry Goldwater reincarnated.
Those wondering what actually happened on planet earth, might check out my book, Leviathan on the Right: How Big‐Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution.