Kim Strassel writes:
Marco Rubio appeared on a Sunday talk show this month to say something remarkable. The Republican running for Florida’s Senate seat suggested we reform Social Security by raising the retirement age for younger workers. Florida is home to 2.4 million senior citizens who like to vote. The blogs declared Mr. Rubio politically suicidal.
The response from Mr. Rubio’s primary competitor, Gov. Charlie Crist, was not remarkable. His campaign slammed Mr. Rubio’s idea as “cruel, unusual and unfair to seniors living on a fixed income.” Mr. Crist’s plan for $17.5 trillion in unfunded Social Security liabilities? Easy! He’ll root out “fraud” and “waste.”
Strassel says this is the real GOP “civil war” — “the real divide is between reformers like Mr. Rubio and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who are running on principles and tough issues, and a GOP old guard that still finds it politically expedient to duck or demagogue issues.”
This also confirms that the mainstream media spin that Tea Party protesters are dolts, fools, and rubes is, well, media spin. The darling of the Tea Partiers is the smart-guy reformer, not the party hack. And the Democrats — including the allegedly “intellectual” president — are the ones playing games with the budget scoring on ObamaCare and shoving off on a commission the hard work of entitlement and budget reform.
Before the economy melted down and John McCain’s campaign ground to a halt (and then began to eat its own), McCain was running as a reformer, someone not beholden to the party insiders. He came up with a credible health-care plan that was not too different from many circulating among Republicans in Congress now. McCain was a flawed candidate, running in an impossible election year for a Republican, but the message of reform along with a healthy dose of impatience with White House insiderism is a solid message for conservatives. In fact, it’s more compelling after Obama (who has vividly demonstrated what needs to be reformed) than it was in 2008.
In 2010 and 2012, Republicans will need more competent proponents of that message. They have them in Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, and others. Suddenly the party of ideas is once again the GOP, while the Democrats — and their infatuation for statism — suddenly seem rather stale.