The absence of a Republican spending proposal is not just a negotiating tactic but a howling void where a specific grasp of the role of government ought to be.
—Chait, in his article headlined “Why Republicans Can’t Propose Spending Cuts” (link)
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An amazing opportunity awaits the Republican party, thanks to the fiscal cliff. The party of social spending cuts, is being asked to propose social spending cuts. And what is the GOP doing? Nothing. Ok, not nothing. They are punting. They are punting, on first down, following the opening kickoff. The Republican party is failing to lay out any cuts to “out of control” social spending, instead relying on rhetoric to pressure the President into proposing cuts first.
My theoretical understanding: The Republicans are doing what they are doing out of an awareness there is little national audience for the principle that social spending is out of control. Reflexive anti-government beliefs dominate a number of counties in just about every state throughout the country, and many House members gain or maintain power with these anti-government views, in these counties. But in national races — in the case of the fiscal cliff, in national negotiations — the data suggest advocacy of spending cuts for social groups politically alienates those social groups. If you cut spending, you are left with your base of true believers, and the opposition or apathy of everyone else.
In short: the details of “small government” are nationally unpresentable. Tea Party/conservative movement ideas face a very uncertain future.