In the summer issue of Democracy, E.J Dionne discusses the shape that the reform conservative movement is taking in the face of both the rise of the Tea Party and the 2012 presidential election. Dionne notes that, while these “Reformicons” don’t look like the Constructive Republicans of a half-century ago, they are still leading a “conservative reform project”—though one that may not be “as bold or as creative as our national moment requires.”
Many of the reform ideas were put forth in an essay collection compiled by the advocacy group YG Network called “Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class.” William Galston notes in his Wall Street Journal column that, although narrowly tailored to economic reforms, the document is a large step toward reality, and some of the proposals actively challenge the conservative orthodoxy.
Dionne suggests, however, that the new Reformicons are constrained by the current political environment. Not only has their primary electorate moved to the right, but President Obama has taken up many policy ideas that would have been “ripe for Reformicon picking.” Dionne writes, “In trying to be practical, moderate, and reasonable, liberals themselves may have helped to shrink the philosophical space in which policies are formulated and arguments are carried out.”
Despite some of the constraints, there is a growing conversation about reform conservatism (see: Yuval Levin, Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, and many others) and the policies and politics it might entail. Building on this conversation, the Governance Studies Program at Brookings will host a discussion of the reform conservative movement on Thursday, June 26. Senior Fellows William Galston and E.J. Dionne will be joined by some of the architects of reform conservatism; Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center; Senior Editor of the National Review Ramesh Ponnuru; and Michael Strain, a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, for a discussion on this topic.
Click through for a summary of the discussion and audio from the event, “The Reformicons: A Discussion of the Reform Conservative Movement.”