Republicans Against Republican Ideology

December 14, 2012

Lately, many Republican political leaders are making decisions that are emotionally understandable -- but politically and ideologically odd.

Few issues unite Republicans like a desire for lower taxes. Yet conservative members of the House of Representatives seem to be choosing tax cuts for no one over tax cuts for 98% of Americans. The only advantage of the former option is that the House members don't have to vote for it, it will happen automatically. They are still causing most people’s taxes to rise by their actions, since there is an offer on the table to cut them for all but the top 2%. These congressmen and women apparently believe they won't be blamed because they won’t have to literally press the "Aye" button on the House floor.

Republican Governors and legislators around the country are doing something similar on healthcare. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) allows states to set up their own insurance exchanges, allowing people to shop for affordable insurance. If they don't, the federal government designs and operates an exchange for them. Given how important it is to Republicans for states, not the federal government, to control most public policy, you'd think they would be eager to set up the state-run exchanges. But very few states with Republicans in power have done so, which means the federal government will step in.

Republicans hate that Obamacare was passed, and hate that the Supreme Court upheld it. So it's an understandable emotional reaction to want to have nothing to do with it. The same is true on taxes -- they are unhappy that the President was re-elected and is now in a position to veto tax cuts for the top 2% of taxpayers. But an emotional reaction should mean you yell at your staff or your dog*, but not actually pursue a public policy at odds with your own philosophical beliefs.

It is true that there is some individual advantage for many of the politicians following this course. Since most Republicans, particularly in safe House districts, fear a right-wing primary challenge more than a general election threat, their highest priority is keeping the activist conservative base happy. And many people in the base feel these issues very emotionally. But for larger Republican political goals -- reviving the brand of the Party, electing a president in 2016 or 2020, gaining a majority in the Senate -- these actions are as counter-productive politically as they are ideologically.

*don't really yell at your dog.

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