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It Turns Out GOP Voters Like 'Free Stuff' Too!

Why are Republicans opposing Biden's relief bill with half-hearted shrugs? Maybe they've given up on fighting Keynesian economics, instead choosing culture wars over actual policy.
It Turns Out GOP Voters Like 'Free Stuff' Too!
Image from: Michael J. Kramer

Republicans have expressed opposition to the COVID relief bill but don't seem to be going all out to block it. Paul Krugman is puzzled.

What those of us who participated in economic debates during the early Obama years remember was the constant drumbeat of warnings that the new president’s policies would produce disaster. The Obama stimulus was considerably smaller than the Biden plan (indeed, much too small, but that’s another story). Yet not a week went by without loud claims that hyperinflation and a debt crisis were just around the corner.

And Republicans also spent years denouncing Obamacare as a tyrannical job-killer, while they’ve barely mentioned the significant expansion in Obamacare that is contained within the Biden proposal.

So what’s different this time?

Krugman has several theories: That this stimulus bill is easier to understand than Obama's. That Republicans don't have as many wonks (or faux-wonks like Paul Ryan) available to denounce the bill in smart-sounding ways.

Jonathan Chait believes that Republicans have simply given up on trying to fight Keynesian economics.

Many observers in both parties anticipated that the switch to a Democratic president would drive the GOP back to the libertarian purity that it has habitually clung to in opposition. But more than a month in, barely a sign of it can be found. The absence of a renewed anti-government impulse suggests a profound historic change may be afoot: The Republican Party is finally abandoning its crusade to roll back the New Deal....

Why has the dream that animated generations of Ayn Rand–toting Buckleyites to join the cause been quietly forgotten?

... Trump has genuinely changed Republican elites’ thinking about what their voters care about. “One of the things we discovered to our dismay in 2016 is that the electorate — the base of the Republican Party — was really not conservative in any meaningful way,” explains Mona Charen. Charen comes from the party’s anti-Trump wing, but pro-Trump Republicans have been saying similar things throughout....

In other words, they realized that their voters like what they've long denounced as "free stuff."

Is that it? Or is another idea Krugman has closer to the real explanation?

An unintended consequence of the Big Lie about the election may be that it undercuts Republican opposition to Democratic policy priorities. The right-wing media complex, vast as it is, has to deal with its viewers’ and listeners’ limited attention spans. Every hour spent promulgating conspiracy theories about election fraud and false-flag Antifa operations is an hour not spent frightening audiences about the imminent death of the dollar at the hands of Democratic big spenders.

Republicans may have decided that it doesn't matter what Democrats do -- in 2022 and 2024, they'll just run against a caricature of the Democrats, based on whatever forms of scaremongering are working best to fire up their base.

Note this Breitbart story:

Republican voters are more concerned about illegal immigration to the United States than any other issue, including the economic damage caused by the ... coronavirus crisis, a new survey reveals.

A survey by Echelon Insights finds that above all other issues, illegal immigration concerns Republican voters the most.

When asked to rank issues by level of concern, nearly 6-in-10 Republicans said they are “extremely concerned” about illegal immigration, while 22 percent said they are “very concerned.” Another seven percent of Republicans said they are “somewhat concerned” about illegal immigration.

The second most concerning issue to Republicans is anti-law enforcement rhetoric. About 59 percent said they were extremely concerned about the issue, 20 percent said they were very concerned, and 14 percent said they were somewhat concerned.

(I'm sure none of the Republican survey respondents thought it was hypocritical to express alarm at "anti-law enforcement rhetoric" shortly after a January 6 Republican riot in which police officers were attacked and one cop died. I'm certain that they believe all the violence was caused by Antifa, or that if cops were attacked, it was justifiable because the cops weren't "following the Constitution" by allowing the rioters to seize control of the government.)

Here's a chart of GOP voters' top concerns, according to Echelon:

graph of GOP voter concerns

Liberal bias in the mainstream media! Socialism! Antifa violence! Election fraud! Tech company censorship! Discrimination against Christians! These are the monsters Fox News, Newsmax, and OANN tell conservatives are under their beds. These are concerns that have little or no connection to what Democrats have been doing in D.C. since January 20 or are likely to do over the next four years. Republicans may have realized that their best shot at getting their base to vote for them might be to ignore President Biden altogether and just keep talking about the War on Christianity and autonomous zones in Portland.

Hey, it works for the right-wing media. Why not for Mitch McConnell?

Published with permission of No More Mr. Nice Blog

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