Kevin Drum, discussing the Megan McCardle laffer issue, asks:
Still, is there really any comparison? In fact, is there any subject among liberals that has the same totemic appeal as tax cutting does to conservatives? As near as I can tell, every single Republican running for president publicly says that cutting taxes always raises revenues — even though the idea is as absurd as Ron Paul’s gold standard crankiness. Ditto for the Heritage Foundation, AEI, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, etc. etc. Deviate from the party line, as Bruce Bartlett has, and you’re quickly excommunicated.
Liberals agree on lots of things, but I just can’t think of anything that’s enforced quite as ruthlessly as the conservative party line on tax cuts. Any ideas?
Kevin’s first flaw is buying into the notion that Republicans actually believe the things they claim to believe. They don’t. Certainly, there are true believers mixed in here and there, and they most certainly do believe completely in their cause. And, for now, it does appear that Republicans do seem united around keeping taxes cut. For the most part, though, the thing the remaining Republicans believe in is the Republican party.
There is a difference in the public perception of Democrats and the Republicans, and that is that all Republicans have a wide range of shared beliefs that unite them, whereas with the Democrats, different groups have their own issues with which they adhere to rigidly, but as a whole, are not bound to in any way that approaches the current alleged fealty to Republican dogma.
Certainly, within the different groups of the Democrats, you can find a whole host of issues that have a degree of ‘totemic appeal.’ Hell, one need look no farther than the bitter feuds between the DLC and the dKos wing of the party to figure that out. However, in recent years with the Republican Party, if you do not pretend to believe the terrorists are going to kill us all, abortion should be outlawed regardless of circumstance, that the Democrats are worse, that Michael Moore is fat, that the media is biased, and so on and so forth, there simply is no home for you there anymore. And in the unfortunate and frequent circumstances in which Bush violates one or all of those alleged principles, they manage to rally around the flag or find an external villain to demonize (Streisand, the Dixie Chicks, etc.) until the unpleasantness of the ensuing cognitive dissonance disappears.
In one sense, you have to admire the ruthless efficiency with which the current GOP is able to suppress the fact that they violate their alleged principles from one day to the next. Try to juggle the claims of America’s moral authority on the right with the GOP’s newfound devotion to torture. Or watch the allegedly Christian right sit silently during the torture debate. For more fun, watch the family values party cheer David Vitter soliciting prostitutes while screaming bloody murder over Larry Craig’s lavatory dalliances. Republican “ideas” and the mandatory rigid public adherence to them may still resemble a three ring circus complete with clown cars and trained elephants and a host of geeks and bearded ladies, but they have folded up the big tent (although I am sure it will make an guest appearance at the 2008 RNC). All that remains is the freak show, really, and that is just it- it is little more than a show.
That is what is confusing Kevin. The GOP claims to have over-arching principles that bind the party together, but in reality they would be scrapped at a moments notice for political expediency. If it came down to winning the 2008 election or the Laffer curve, is there really anyone who doesn’t think the Laffer Curve and tax cuts would go the way of the Edsel?
The Democrats have a number of different factions with their own beliefs, but nothing that binds them together the way the faux GOP beliefs do. Well, other than the notion that Bush sucks, but that really isn’t just a Democratic belief these days.