Alex Massie Alex Massie

Towards a Republican Recovery

Reihan Salam offers some tough love to the GOP:

In a Pew survey conducted shortly after the 2008 election, an impressive 38 percent of the electorate identified themselves as conservatives, far more than the 21 percent who called themselves liberals. Yet 51 percent of those self-described conservatives favored repealing some of the Bush tax cuts. And 24 percent of them wanted to repeal all of them. Not surprisingly, a larger share of liberals and moderates felt the same way. Note that the official GOP position has been that the Bush tax cuts should be made permanent. To put it plainly, the official Republican position—forcefully advanced by conservative media luminaries—reflects the views of just under half of the most conservative bloc of the country.


Republicans, particularly rock-ribbed Reaganites, have compromised themselves into a corner. They say they’re cutting taxes, but they never go after funding for Medicare and Medicaid and education. Instead Republicans talk about trimming or at least restraining discretionary spending. That’s a good and worthwhile thing to do, but it’s not where the real money is. The real money is in making Medicare and Medicaid and education cheaper and more effective. But hard-core conservatives don’t talk about those issues because they’d rather pretend these mammoth, massively popular programs didn’t exist.

This is one reason why, tempting though it is to howl in anguish at the prospect of President Obama’s plans to massively increase the federal deficit over the coming years, the “Tea Party” movement has had difficulty in persuading people to take it seriously. Now, as Reihan says, it may well be that the GOP is right to think that cutting taxes remains important, but, right now, it’s not enough to sustain the party, let alone prepare it for happier times. That is, the ghosts of Regan and Jack Kemp can only take you so far.

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