Tyler Cowen asks
Trade aside, so far I've yet to see many actual policy proposals from the McCain camp. Mostly I've seen attempts to signal that they won't do anything too offensive to the party's right wing. Very few of these trial balloons seem to be ideas that McCain had expressed much previous loyalty to. I don't even think we should be analyzing these statements as policy proposals. We should be wondering why the Republican Party has given up on the idea of policy proposals.
Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum each take on this question but don't note the fundamental issue at stake here: when your political ideology is premised on discrediting the notion that government can do good, of course policy is going to suffer. As Greg Anrig noted in his TAP online piece today, professional conservatives have been trained in this fashion for the better part of 30 years, and the Republicans they help elect toe the ideological line, so the result has been a proliferation of conservative activists and politicians who are incompetents -- they don't actually know how to run a government or generate good public policy. And Republicans who did (or do) compromise with liberals end up being loathed by conservatives.
John McCain seems to be a special case. Clearly he was never a movement conservative, so his lack of interest in policy isn't the product of ideological preference. Yet McCain's reputation -- he gets stuff done in Congress and is independent of special interests -- is precisely the opposite of reality, which is why he is so dangerous. This is the reason we have been exploring McCain's foreign and domestic policy on TAP Online this week -- because it isn't being scrutinized forcefully enough elsewhere. After Iraq and Katrina, I don't think the public needs to be convinced of the link between conservatism the failure of government. But I do think the public needs to link John McCain with conservatism if they wish to avoid a third term of Bush.