What do Republicans want?

On health care, Ezra observes:

 A capsule history of health-care reform is that Democrats began with single-payer and Republicans, led by Richard Nixon, countered with an employer-based system. Then, in the 1990s, Democrats proposed an employer-based system and Republicans countered with an individual mandate — which Romney actually passed in Massachusetts in 2005. Then, in 2009, Democrats proposed a system based around an individual mandate and Republicans countered with a vague promise to “repeal-and-replace.”

Pretty much every 2012 Republican presidential hopeful supported a cap and trade approach to environmental control:

Cap and trade, like the health care mandate, was an acceptable free market position for quite a long while. There were always critics, but it wasn’t really until 2009, when environmental skeptics and groups like Americans for Prosperity went to war against it, that conservative and national opinion really turned. (The essential poll on this: In May 2009, only a quarter of voters knew that “cap and trade” had something to do with energy.) And so most of the people considered frontrunners for 2012 have been on the record, at some point, talking up greenhouse gas caps.

On the Republican strategy on the debt ceiling, Mitch McConnell echoes Atrios:

Discussing what Republicans needed in order to raise the debt ceiling today, Mitch McConnell went a little further than John Boehner. Like Boehner, he said that the party wanted entitlement reform as part of a deal. He didn’t get too specific, other than saying the deal would have to be reform, not studying reform.

“Not to be argumentative, but the things I’m talking about have been studied to death,” said McConnell. “We don’t need more hearings. All the options are on the table, thanks to the president’s deficit reduction commission. It’s a question of what you want to pick up and really do.”

The main argument: If the president met Republicans and agreed to entitlement reform — with no tax increases — then both parties would be inured from political damage.

And, of course, on Big Government, and Deficit Spending and the Public Debt, Republicans have always been rhetorically opposed, but, in the event in favor of larger governments, funded by large deficits, massively increasing the Public Debt.

It’s hard to figure out exactly what the GOP objectives are.  I’ve always believed in the Big Lie theory–that they paid lip service to these ideals, but only as political rhetoric–that they maintained a transparently false position on these issues because the current media’s operational model would never call them on it. So out of power, they decried spending, while in power they spent like drunken sailors. Something different is going on now, and I’ve been wondering whether the more recent crop of freshman Members of Congress have grown up with the Big Lie, and, to them, it’s not political rhetoric–that they would never channel Vice President Cheney and say “Deficits don’t matter.”

Stuart Zechman and I talk about these and other issues tonight at Virtually Speaking A-Z. 8PM EDT.

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