Monday, September 26, 2005

Ideology vs. Practicality

Robert Novak's latest column deals with a divide in the Republican Party. You might call it a divide between ideology and practicality. Conservatism stresses cutting government programs and shrinking the government. Practical politics dictates bringing back federal money to improve your district and employ your constituents. How does a Republican negotiate this divide?

Well one method is to argue for cutting the programs benefiting some other state. I mean if you are the Republican Senator of Kentucky, why not try to cut the programs benefiting those people in New York who can't vote for you anyway. I'm reminded of a bit Michael Moore did back on TV Nation when good ol' Newt Gingrich was on his way up the ladder. He simply went around and pointed out all the federal money pouring into Newt's district and called on Newt and the citizens to eliminate such spending. Naturally nobody there was in favor of this idea.

But this method of cutting spending for other states while continuing to spend in your own only goes so far. Plus, if you squint your eyes, it seems a little hypocritical. So some of the younger members of Congress (as described by Novak) are coming into conflict with their seniors over cutting government spending. Because, see, they actually want to cut government spending and not just pretend to cut government spending.

In case you are wondering I'm in favor of smart government spending. That may involve some cuts and some increases.

Anyway Novak concludes with strong support for these younger "cut-government-spending-firsters."
The beleaguered conservatives see all this spending leading inexorably to a tax increase, which would redistribute the tax burden to the disadvantage of the successful and threaten an economic recession. Barry Goldwater long ago assailed Dwight D. Eisenhower for presiding over a "Dime Store New Deal." That stinging rebuke no longer would be appropriate for today's Republicans. They outdo Democrats on pork and are in the same ballpark on entitlements. Even Katrina and now Rita do not restrain them.
A bit of a scare tactic there isn't there? Redistributing the tax burden to the disadvantage of the successful? That's going to keep me up at night - thinking about people who have plenty still having plenty.

Under normal circumstances one would assume acclimitizing to Washington would smooth the ideological edges off of these younger Republicans. But right now the Republican base is ideologically charged. It's possible a congressperson could trade the benefits of bringing government spending back to his or her district for the benefits of being ideologically pure and trading on that with the national base. So perhaps this struggle between ideology and practicality may not take the expected route.

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