So long as the Republican Party is the party of old, white men we won’t get guys like Jon Huntsman at its helm (though, as Larison points out, he’s hardly as modern and charming as we’d all like to think.)
Ben Smith writes:
The party Huntsman imagined — modernizing, reforming, and youthful — could still be born. That might be the reaction to a second smashing defeat at Obama’s hands, or that might be where President Romney takes his re-election campaign. But it’s now hard to see Huntsman leading that change. He bet, too early, on a fantasy, and ran for the nomination of a party that doesn’t exist, at least not yet. His decision tonight to drop out just marks his recognition of that fact.
We already have the Democratic Party. In it there are lots of free market types, lots of good-government types, lots of people in tune with youthful voters, etc. I’d like more civil libertarians in the Democratic Party, personally, but I see no reason why we need a more youthful modernized GOP when the Democratic Party is already leaps and bounds closer to that mark.
What we need is more focus on civil liberties issues from our liberal leaders (though I welcome civil liberties being embraced on the right as well.) We need more Ron Wydens and Russ Feingolds. I see the Democrats moving toward a sort of populism that isn’t necessarily bad but that doesn’t particularly excite me either. It’s a response to Tea Party populism on the right. But fighting fire with fire isn’t always the best move. And since I’m a market liberal, a lot of progressive populism rankles me.
Obama has already illustrated perfectly well that if we want to actually contain the size of government through smart policies the Democrats are a better choice than Republicans. Bush grew government in all the worst ways. As far as I’m concerned, Obama is a competent enough politician and president but hasn’t done nearly enough to constrain those bad areas of the state that Bush let out of the box. A “modern, youthful, GOP” wouldn’t do any better, and would likely do worse. Part of the appeal of Ron Paul is his willingness to scale back those parts of the government which are illiberal and violent. What we need to do is work to cultivate a Democratic Party that believes we ought to scale back the military, end illiberal detainment and surveillance policies, and write off the war on drugs as an expensive disaster.
There are progressive politicians out there who do care about these things, just not enough of them. A primary attempt at Obama from the left flank would have been extremely stupid politically, of course, but we do need to find other ways to push the needle in the direction of expanded civil liberties and economic freedom and a more efficient welfare state. (Note: I do not necessarily mean a scaled back welfare state, but one which is economically efficient. I do think that for all its flaws the ACA moves us in that direction though I will go into more detail on that in the future.)