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The Republican dilemma

The biggest problem for Republicans is that the policies they stand for are not actually very popular, even among their base. I’m not talking about the identity stuff, which is quite popular. I mean economic policy: massive tax cuts for the rich, ending the estate tax (which only kicks in above $5 million), removing health care, reducing or eliminating social security and medicare. None of this stuff is popular – except among people who donate bigly to Republican campaigns. So how do you win elections when what you stand for is so unpopular? Distract and dissemble. Wave the flag, talk about freedom, and hope people don’t ask too many questions. And outright lie to them (Trump). And that works well enough when you are a minority party; nobody expects you to deliver much, and you can use obstruction to make a lot of empty symbolic gestures (80 Obamacare repeal votes). You might even make a few minor incremental gains and you can praise yourself for your accomplishments “under the circumstances”. But when you unexpectedly win, and win total control of the government, you get kind of stuck. Somebody is going to have to be disappointed. Either the base or the donors. So you see a lot of Republicans (especially in the House) trying to figure out who they can stiff – their voters or their donors. It is hard to win reelection without the donors. But it is impossible to win if the base turns on you. And if Republicans actually passed everything Ryan ever promised all in one year, the party would not recover for decades, people would be so pissed. So now they have to figure out how to take moderate steps in that direction without risking too much reputational damage.

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