GOP, small-government conservatism and public opinion
Liberal Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent points to a new Pew poll showing majorities favoring tax increases on those earning over $250,000 and opposing cuts to entitlements, and sees a deep problem for Republicans. Their agenda is unpopular, he argues, yet many members of the GOP House are in safe districts so they don’t have an incentive to compromise. The “underlying problem,” he writes, “is that the GOP vision of government seems to be fundamentally and increasingly out of step with how majorities view its proper scope and role.”
To start, it’s always important to recognize that poll results depend on what questions the pollsters ask. On election night, even as President Obama coasted to reelection, Politico reported that according to exit polls, “53 percent of those surveyed said the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals — a figure that’s risen 10 points since the 2008 election. Comparatively, 41 percent of voters said they believe government should be doing more.” This isn’t to ignore the other polling data that is discouraging for small government conservatism, but to question the idea that there’s some sort of fundamental shift toward support of big government.
It’s also important to recognize that a poll is a snapshot in time. It isn’t surprising to me that right now, most Americans would prefer raising taxes on two percent of taxpayers and avoiding cuts to entitlements. Because as of now, Democrats have gotten away with promoting the fantasy that the nation can balance the budget by making modest adjustments to spending while protecting 98 percent of the country from tax increases. But they won’t be able to get away with this fairy tale forever. At some point, reality will set in, and the reality is that in order to protect entitlements from major changes, Democrats will have to back massive across the board tax hikes. ...