Fact: Compromise Has Expanded Government

Apr 10, 2014

In my Foundry column this week, I argue progressives have seen too many successes over the last century for us to offer a timid response. Conservatives have to start winning the argument with the American people, and that won't be accomplished by continually compromising our principles:

"[C]onservatives make two simple claims: Most policies under debate are liberal, and Republican leaders sacrifice conservative principles when they compromise. History shows they are right on both counts."

So argues political scientist Matt Grossman of Michigan State University in a recent Washington Post column, relying on coded data spanning all major legislation enacted since 1945. By Grossman's count, only about 20 percent of the most significant policies in the last seven decades have been conservative victories. In contrast, over 60 percent expanded government.

Once these policies are enacted, Grossman argues, they are "self-reinforcing because they create beneficiaries who act as constituencies for their continuation and expansion. Policy debates center on what additional actions government should take, not whether to discontinue existing roles."

Grossman's research confirms what we've all experienced: rolling back successive waves of liberalism is extraordinarily difficult because, all too often, conservative "success" is defined as moderately smaller expansion of government than liberals would prefer. Conservatives will only achieve those elusive policy victories if we argue from a position of strength informed by innovative policies. Progressives have seen too many successes over the last century for us to offer a timid response.

Read the whole column here.