So this is Thomas Frank? This is the man so lionized by the left for his authorship of “What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America’’?
Could he really have made an argument as simplistic and palpably wrong-headed as the one seemingly propounded in his New York Times column of this morning, G.O.P. Corruption? Bring In the Conservatives [subscription required].
Having read it a couple times, the answer is inescapably . . . yes. Frank's fundamental thesis is that, since conservatives don't believe in the beneficent powers of government, they are essentially unfit to govern. Or as Frank puts it, bad things happen "when you elevate to high public office people" like Ronald Reagan with a healthy skepticism about government.
Frank fears that conservatives will, ironically, benefit politically from the public's disillusionment about government, even though it is those same dastardly conservatives who engaged in the corruption that provoked that very cynicism. The only salvation he sees would be "a theory of corruption that pins the tail squarely on the elephant."
So not merely does Frank oppose small government, but by his theory those who oppose big government are fundamentally unfit for office. Would he disenfranchise all small-government conservatives? Is the only solution to corruption to turn the henhouse of government over to the big-government foxes? Can he really be so naive or worse as to ignore the gaudy history of corruption when big-government types have been at the controls, from Chicago, to Louisiana to DC itself?
The inherent elitism of Frank's argument - that only liberals should be permitted to operate the levers of power - should come as no surprise. It is of a piece with the theory of 'What's the Matter with Kansas'. There, he wrote that Middle Americans are basically too ignorant to understand their own interests, and are hoodwinked into voting for Republicans even though it would actually serve their purposes to support Democrats.
By the logic of Frank's column today, most of our Founding Fathers - proponents of small government like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine - would be unfit for office. Remember "the government is best which governs least"?