On Morning Joe today the discussion surrounded the Republican Fox debate last night. Joe Scarborough went on a rampage against Michele Bachmann and called her a "joke". Scarborough said that the Iowa straw poll process is the silly season and that extremists can get attention during this process but moderates will prevail when the campaigns get serious. I won't get into the complete back and forths between Michael Steele and Scarborough, or between Chris Hayes and Scarborough, but the general gist of the disagreements is that candidates like Bachmann who stand on principles supported by the base and who fail to reach moderate Republicans cannot possible survive, and that it's a waste of time considering their candidacy. Steele proposed that the base has expanded and the Republican electorate is closer to the concerns of Bachmann than the moderates.
Scarborough ridiculed Bachmann's stand against government telling citizens what kind of lightbulbs they can use -- Steele said the lightbulb issue is symbolic of Big Nanny Government, and that people respond to this symbolism. Chris Hayes said that one of the pertinent moments in the debate was when the candidates were asked to raise their hands if they would oppose a 10 to 1 plan with ten times the spending cuts for one part tax hikes, and all the candidates raised their hands. Scarborough said he would take a 3 to 1 plan and that the candidates are merely pandering to the base in Iowa.
These are important distinctions, and they distinguish the direction of the Republican Party influenced by limited government ideology as opposed to the historical domination of the Republican Party by Big Government, moderate Republicans. The Republican Party has represented the other side of our statist system for a long time pushing their own brand of statism and more often than not compromising with the Democrat brand of statism. There is now an anti-statist strain in the Republican Party that's responding to an anti-statist strain in the voting public. The extent to which this anti-statist strain is widespread and totally serious among the candidates or the public is yet to be determined, but the national converstation and polls indicate that the strain exists and is having influence.
Scarborough and his ilk are taking the position that the strain is limited to a small Tea Party faction, and that when push comes to shove, the Republican establishment will prevail and the status quo will remain unchanged. This is not to say that moderates and establishment Republicans are not pushing for change, because many are acknowledging the Tea Party concernes about debt and deficits, but they are agreeing with pundits like Paul Krugman who say that now is not the time to cut spending, that in the short run stimulus needs to continue while at the same time long term debt drivers need to be addressed. Scarborough even said he agrees with Krugman on this limited point. And the establishment would also include tax hikes in the form of closing loopholes or letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the richest among us. They basically agree with the rhetoric of the Democrats. I say "rhetoric" because what Republican moderates are not considering is how they've been rolled in the past, and how their compromises have favored progressive policies.
On the question of 10 to 1 tax cuts to tax hikes -- this is pretty easy to answer. There are two parts to this question -- one is whether the cuts would be real cuts and would actually happen. Reagan said one of his biggest mistakes was trusting Democrats on a deal like this -- the taxes went higher and the cuts never materialized. Democrats do not want to significantly cut government -- they don't want to head in that direction because it will weaken the State and feed into the limited government efforts, so, anytime a 10 to 1 plan is offered, you can be assured that the cuts are illusory. The other part of the question, and this is what the questioners in the debate were trying to get the Republicans to balk on, is whether created wealth should remain invested in the private sector or should created wealth be confiscated by government and spent on government programs to plan and guide the economy. The Republicans, so far, are saying created wealth should remain invested in the private sector.
Later on the show, Chuck Todd, Sam Stein and David Axlerod came on the show. Michael Steele, who's a moderate, was, again, the only representative of the Republican position. The basic consensus from these pundits on the Left is that the Republicans looked bad in the debate -- what a surprise. David Axlerod made news when he accused Politico of manufacturing the story that Obama operatives are planning on smearing and personally destroying Mitt Romney by concentrating on his weirdness. Axlerod's claim is a big deal seeing as how MSNBC and Morning Joe in particular give a spot for Politico to give a news report each morning. If Axlerod is right and Politico made up the story, then Politico has no credibility and MSNBC should end their relationship with Politico. If Axlerod is lying, then Obama's campaign has no credibility and Axlerod should be outed as a liar.