I spent the weekend re-reading David Frum’s Dead Right. Published in 1995, Frum’s slim book is a gripping and devastating account of the failure of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to limit government. Frum’s thesis, which I do not believe he has ever recanted, is that the conservative movement became enamored with the trappings of power during the Reagan presidency, and stopped making the argument that America’s problems stem from our sprawling and dilapidated welfare state. Instead conservatives, like Reagan, told Americans they could indeed have it all: tax cuts and entitlements, big government at half the price. Frum’s solution was for conservatives to step back from the Republican Party, care somewhat less about elections, and spend more time convincing Americans that a radical reduction in the size and scope of government is necessary and just.
Paul Ryan enters his first full year as speaker of the House with a unified caucus, an ambitious agenda, and an audacious goal: Go on offense against President Obama and the Democratic Party, while laying the predicate for unified Republican control of government in 2017. “We have no clue who our nominee is going to be,” Ryan tells me over the phone, “and the last thing we should do is sit around and wait.”
First, Paul Ryan likes Rage Against the Machine, long embroiled in a four-way competition with Creed, Hootie & the Blowfish, and Dave Matthews for the title of “Worst Band of All Time.” Saying that you “like” Rage is tantamount to admitting that you are a total dork; it pretty much confirms that some point in the ’90s your main interests were Surge, Twister, and real-time strategy games.