Cynicism v Craziness: Choose Your Republican Pattern

by evanmcmurry

One of those everybody’s-sitting-around-drinking-microbrew questions is whether the Republican Party cynically exploits radical ideas, or what used to be radical ideas—think everything from birtherism to global warming denial to tax cuts incite the economy—for electoral gain, or whether they actually believe the stuff they say; and as a corollary to that question, which is worse, a party willing to exploit any extreme position to get elected, or one that actually buys their own insane notions?

I prefer to think that people actually believe the things that they say, if for no other reason than continued mendacity is very difficult to pull off. Alas, a couple of random pieces of news seem to indicate that I’m wrong in this respect.

First, the Ohio Secretary of State out and out said that the changing of voting hours in certain districts was intended to suppress African American and Democratic voters. He said it in those words, to a reporter, and then basically told everybody to kiss his ass. This was on the heels of a Pennsylvania House majority leader declaiming that Voter ID would hand the state to Romney. So on the subject of whether voter fraud exists and is a problem that must be solved by laws that happen to disproportionately effect minority voters, Republicans appear to think no; they really are cynically pushing that idea just to depress Democratic turnout. That’s not totally surprising, but given how up in arms everybody has been about ACORN and related pseudo-scandals, I would have thought the GOP actually believed there was massive voter fraud happening. It doesn’t appear that way.

Second, here’s WaPo columnist Matt Miller, on the difference between candidates like Romney and Steve Forbes running on lowering their own taxes, versus Reagan running on lowering taxes:

Call them the Drawbridge Republicans. As the moniker implies, these are wealthy Republicans who have no qualms about pulling up the drawbridge behind them. Such sentiments used to be reserved for the political fringe. The most prominent example was Steve Forbes, whose twin obsessions during his vanity presidential runs in 1996 and 2000 — marginal tax rates and inflation — were precisely what you’d expect from an heir in a cocoon.

(In case you were wondering, Ronald Reagan wasn’t a Drawbridge because he entered office when marginal rates, at 70 percent, were truly damaging to the economy. But as GOP business leaders now tell me privately, the Clinton-era top rate of 39.6 percent, let alone today’s 35 percent, are hardly a barrier to work or investment).

Nice little parenthetical at the end. In that one aside, the entire GOP justification for tax cuts goes out the window, and they appear to know it. On the subject of whether Republicans actually believe that taxes burden the economy, or whether they’re just cynically pushing the idea for their own financial benefit, the answer seems to be the latter. Again, that’s not wholly surprising, but with the vehemence of support the issue gets, I would have thought it would have more generated more credulity.

Scott Lemieux has been titling his posts on this The Quiet Part Loud, in reference to Krusty’s inability to hide a bribe, and that’s exactly what’s going on: Republicans recently are disregarding the carefully crafted framing of an issue and just blurting out the real political motives. There could be any number of explanations for this—people, especially the right, seem to go a little batty toward the end of a presidential campaign, almost as if they’ve been left out of the fridge for too long. But as I wrote above, mendacity is difficult to sustain; it could just be that individual Republicans were unable to keep up the show for this long. And now we know: on the question of whether the right is cynical or crazy, the answer is cynical. Is that better, or worse?

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