This assertion by Tom Schaller at fivethirtyeight.com strikes me as completely true:
In other words, although the end-of-life use of Medicare is a government problem that violates almost every philosophy they espouse about the proper role of government—public sector over private; easily exploited by, rather than protected from, trial lawyers; a moral hazard, consequence-free billing system as opposed to rational, need-based spending; a program with rising outlays as opposed to slow or zero growth outlays—Medicare is instead the very program they are rallying behind.
And why? For votes—specifically the votes of those angry, mostly-white seniors upon whom they are betting their electoral fortunes in 2010 and beyond. In short, the GOP has now become so wedded to its dying, white majority that it is willing to sacrifice not only good public policy and smart long-term budgeting, but its very own core principles. Their politically-motivated, 180-degree defense of Medicare and their inflammatory rhetoric about death panels proves that the GOP is now the party paralyzed by identity politics.