Republicans Are Losing the Fiscal Conservatives

I found, via Andrew Sullivan, more evidence for an argument I’ve made many times here that the conventional distinctions between Democrats and Republicans, or liberals and conservatives, over economic matters no longer apply. Sullivan points out a statement from Frank Luntz in The Washington Post:

My polls show that Democrats now hold a perceived advantage with voters not just on reducing deficits and balancing the budget but on an issue long seen as a GOP strength: ending wasteful spending. That alone should jar Republicans into taking a fresh approach.

I’ve long maintained that the Republican claims of supporting small government represents their preferred rhetoric, not reality. As Sullivan also points out, rather than showing evidence of supporting fiscal responsibility, “they seem far more concerned to shore up the battle against abortion and gay marriage.” Or, as I wrote yesterday, Republicans can no longer being taken seriously with regards to developing public policy when they have made ignoring reality part of their political philosophy.

There was a time when being a conservative meant supporting fiscal responsibility and avoiding unnecessary foreign entanglements. Today that’s a far better description of Howard Dean, John Kerry, and many other Democrats than of any prominent Republicans. Of course you’ll never hear this from Republicans who prefer to demonize their opponents rather than engage in an honest discussion of the issues. Earlier in the op-ed, Luntz wrote:

It is unfortunate that the Republican Party is currently dominated by hyperpartisan, gut-punching professional politicians and expert technicians whom I wouldn’t want to face at the dark end of the electoral alley. They specialize in the flawless execution of “wedge” politics. That may have worked well in past elections, but no longer. The latest gimmick is “branding” — a Madison Avenue technique — to reverse the Republican slide. But political parties are not brands, slogans are not a replacement for ideas and you don’t sell leaders the way you sell widgets.

Strange. That’s exactly what I thought Luntz’s role has been in the GOP all along.

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