Monday, April 18, 2011

Teach your constituents well

Ezra Klein spotlights a potential problem for the GOP in 2012: in 2010, candidates incited the party's base and the nation's seniors to fear and loathe the Medicare spending reductions with which Democrats largely funded the Affordable Care Act -- and now, just a few months later, the party has backed Ryan's plan to privatize and radically devalue Medicare.  Klein further  notes a polling anomaly: Republicans are far more averse than Democrats to any attempts to reform Medicare:
Gallup poll released Wednesday underscored the tension in the Republican coalition. It asked Americans whether they “think the government should completely overhaul Medicare to control the cost of the program, make major changes to Medicare but not completely overhaul it, make minor changes to Medicare, or should the government not try to control the costs of Medicare?” Among Democrats, “minor changes” was most popular, followed by “major changes.”

You might assume that Republicans would be a lot friendlier to remaking the program. Not so. Among Republicans, “not try to control costs” was the most popular position, followed by “minor changes.” And to call Ryan’s plan anything less than a complete overhaul would be to insult it.
Left a bit latent in Klein's post, though, is the crowning irony  -- more extreme than the spectacle of a party being against cuts to Medicare before they were for them. Republicans have trained their supporters to regard any changes to Medicare first steps in  a fascist plot to empower death panels to end care for ailing seniors at their whim.  They are now confronted with a base that does not simply think that the Democratic cuts to Medicare were ill-advised.  Among registered Republicans,  "Keep your government hands off my Medicare!" has apparently become an article of faith.

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