Strong opinions, weakly held

The GOP and identity politics

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.


  1. A couple of months ago we received a mailer from our senator, John Cornyn (R, TX) outlining how he would defend Medicare to the bitter end. Of course, this came right as the whole health care debate was heating up. Cognitive dissonance.

  2. Parties maneuvering to represent different interest groups as opinion shifts is not in itself a bad thing. The problem here is that the GOP hasn’t adjusted its message, which makes that message incoherent and undermines their promise to pursue certain policies (say, preserving Medicare) once in power.

    One should remember that despite the quoted description of a “dying, white majority”, an exceptionally large cohort of regular voters (my parent’s generation) is about to hit the retirement rolls. They’re going to live another 20-40 years, and they vote. Since they principally live on entitlement payments and investment income, it is important to keep them from becoming disillusioned with the progressive agenda and simply voting themselves more cash at all costs. Abandoning them to the Republicans is not an option.

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