Republicans Still Aren’t Changing

E. J. DionneYesterday afternoon, E. J. Dionne wrote, The Conservative Learning Curve. He claims that all the talk about the middle class from the likes of Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan is an indication that the Republicans are taking their first baby steps toward changing their party. This is the kind of wishful thinking that has made liberalism a naughty word.

As I wrote yesterday in Same Ol’ Rubio Plus “Middle Class,” there is nothing to this new talk but Republicans adding “middle class” to all their standard talking points. Instead of saying we should end the capital gains tax because it will help job creators, it is now that we should end the capital gains tax because it will help the middle class. There is no rethinking going on here; it is all rebranding.

Last night on The Last Word, E. J. Dionne appeared to put forth this theory. And in his defense, you can tell that even he doesn’t buy it. He is just trying to think the best of Republicans, because they have seemed a bit pathetic recently. Even still, I found it hard to listen to, especially with Lawrence O’Donnell agreeing with him. Thankfully, Richard Wolffe was there to set them straight:

I’m sorry to put a damper on this, but I’m not as optimistic as you guys are about this change in rhetoric. If you looked at any number of focus groups and polls throughout the campaign—if you took the majority of Mitt Romney’s language, he always talked about the middle class. They were all looking at the same data.

Yeah, you want everyone to believe in the American Dream and everyone is going to get on and, “Oh the Democrats just want everyone to get a handout.” That’s obviously a caricature, but if you look at what the policies actually are, when you look at how you create opportunity, in the Republican, conservative mind—that actually is espoused by Rubio, by Paul Ryan—what you’re actually looking at is a reduction in government investment—a reduction of education funding.

And what they mean by more opportunity is more tax cuts for everyone. “Don’t slice off the top 2%: everyone deserves a tax cut!” So I’m a little less optimistic that the rhetorical changes are anything more than saying, “Hey, we heard those focus groups; maybe we just didn’t stick to the language of the focus groups all the time. Maybe it was just 47% of the time.

To this, Dionne responds, “I agree that they have yet to adjust their policies to this new rhetoric.” In other words, he’s hoping. And here’s to hoping! E. J. Dionne is clearly a nicer and more optimistic person than I am. But I haven’t seen anything to indicate that the Republicans are changing in any way. And neither has Richard Wolffe. And frankly, neither has E. J. Dionne.

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