Republicans struggle to reboot their "small government, personal responsibility" scam: will Americans buy it again?

Thom plus logo Joe Scarborough, on his morning TV show, had a roundtable with George Will and David Frum in which these three old conservative war horses discussed the possibility of the Republican Party returning to its "conservative values."

Those values they identified included balanced budgets, personal responsibility and small government. It's important for Americans to understand what conservatives mean when they use these words.

"Balanced Budgets": Back in the 1970s, Jude Wanniski, then a Republican strategist, wrote an OpEd for the Wall Street Journal in which he proposed the "Two Santa Clauses Theory."

Wanniski pointed out that the Democratic Party, since 1933, had been the Santa Claus party. They gave Americans Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, long-term unemployment insurance, food stamps, college loan and tuition support, federally guaranteed mortgage assistance, regulation of banks, food and drugs to protect consumers, etc. Republicans opposed every single one of these initiatives.

Wanniski said that Republicans had to figure out how to become Santa Claus, too, and suggested that Republicans should become the "tax-cut Santa Clauses."

When Republicans are in office, the strategy goes, they should run up the debt as hard and as fast as possible, principally using tax cuts for rich people to do it. When Democrats come into office, Republicans should yell and scream about the importance of having balanced budgets to force the Democrats to cut social program spending, thus forcing Democrats to shoot their own Santa Claus.

Reagan was the first Republican president to aggressively use this strategy, tripling the national debt from about $800 billion to over $2 trillion in just eight years. He ran up more debt in those eight years then every president of the United States all the way back to George Washington, combined. And, of course, when Bill Clinton came into office Republicans started screaming about the budget deficit and Clinton took the bait, "ending welfare as we know it" and cutting back on a variety of other social programs.

"Personal responsibility": This is an old trope that white supremacists have been using since the failure of Reconstruction.

They argue that African-Americans are less successful in America because they fail to take "personal responsibility" for their lives, a convenient slogan that lets them completely ignore the racism structurally built into America's political, economic and cultural systems.

It also makes it convenient for them to ignore the plight of poor white people trapped in dying parts of America like Appalachia., Or struggling with issues of mental health or addiction.

After all, if people are always "personally responsible" for their own circumstances, why should we bother doing anything about homelessness, poverty, hunger, addiction, or the struggle that racial, religious and gender minorities face in achieving the American dream?

"Small government": Ever since Republican Warren Harding was elected president in 1920, the Republican Party has used the phrase "small government" as a euphemism for cutting taxes on rich people and big corporations. In every other regard, the phrase is complete gibberish.

Republicans have consistently and repeatedly exploded the size of government over the years, driving our military spending up to the point where it's greater than the next dozen countries combined, and throwing every kind of advanced weaponry imaginable at police forces all across the nation. They give no-bid contracts to their donors and sell off public lands at pennies on the dollar to miners and frackers, wasting hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

In reality, the only "size of government" consideration Republicans have is their obsession with cutting public education and programs like Social Security and Medicare while simultaneously reducing taxes on the very, very rich.

American conservatism has been a scam since the 1920s, and continues to be a scam that exclusively benefits the very White and the very wealthy in this country.

No amount of hand wringing or sloganeering or "reinventing" will change that fact. The question is, "When will the vast majority of Americans figure this out?"



RepubliCult's picture
RepubliCult 10 weeks 19 hours ago

No no one can EVER take the "con" out of conservative.

You've been quite kind to these 3 con artist cranks in politely pointing out the falsehoods inherent to their ideology. These days, in foreseeing the bad taste and smell left for The Cons' post tRump party, they're trying to reboot by, you guessed it, expressing their longing to return to the good old days when their big cons APPEARED to work - when Benedict Ronald Reagan was president. You occasionally see call outs to Reagan by the Lincoln Project people too, so I'd be distrusting of TLP group, and of any Cons talking at the Democratic convention.

We've been stuck on Reagan's Road to Destruction for 40+ years. ALL ROADS from Benedict Ronald lead to tRump, and can only lead to tRump and Republican fascism. His words, "Government is the problem" is what people remember, overlooking the massive government spending he'd done to keep America a float. Their calls for "small" government is really for NO government to help the common citizens, or anything else that is not "corporate". Thus we are on our own to deal with the Covid pandemic, and that's yielding tens of thousands of dead Americans. We got Fib-ertarian's self regulation by corporations to give us the Boeing Max 8. This corporate freedom lead to 360 dead consumers. Never mind, government was their to bail out Boeing when their stock started to tank. The list of deaths by libertarian, non or self or under regulated corporations is massive.

Reagan racism should by now be known to all. He tried to be sneaky with it, in his famous dog whistle kick off to his 1980 campaign in Mississippi. But this barely exposed recording of him and Nixon needs to be understood by all: “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries — damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” The racist legacy of Benedict Ronald is exactly that. Forever a racist.

And given the widespread refusal by conservabitve to simply wear a mask to prevent death and misery to fellow citizens, the "personal responsibility" mantra is proven to be nothing but garbage, while also a tragic hinderance to saving American lives.

I'd love to keep writing, but anyone can do this - simple look carefully at the Big Con of the Benedict Ronald years, and you'll continue to acquire the understanding that you and everyone else are being conned by "conservativism"...

G O P:




alis volat's picture
alis volat 10 weeks 12 hours ago

Republicans think in black and gray areas. They do not do nuance. They like to "shoot from the hip". Their brains are neurologically different. It's why they turn to authoritarian figures who can make quick decisions, and not do what they term as dithering. We would call it careful consultation and an informed decision that took a little time. When the trouble lands on THEIR doorstep, then they learn. I think you can see why rugged individualism appeals to them.

The reality is that people have come this far only through cooperation and building our knowledge. This fact literally contains every layer and nuance from mankind's beginning, so it really doesn't equate with how they think. What is moral to us may not be moral to them.

And here we go, just like Pres. Obama inherited their mess, so will VP Joe Biden should he win. The GOP old guard, are starting early with preaching "their truth". I don't see them as diabolical; I see it as how they are wired. But of course, those two things can coexist in some of them. Those are the bastards we must expose and fight. Thanks Thom.

avn013's picture
avn013 10 weeks 8 hours ago

A hint to "When will the vast majority of Americans figure this out?" will be given when the vast majority of USA-ians votes in people like Scarborough, Will and Frum or people recommended by them , and people like Andrew Yang, Warren, Kamala Harris (getting close), mayor Pete, AOC (already voted in) etc. The catch is that a significant number (aka a healthy majority) of such people needs to be vote in, more or less at the same time. If a "bloodless coup" (mainly by elected GOPS) turned the country around and directed her downhill, why not reverse and start going uphill again as we were doing 40-50 years ago?

stopgap's picture
stopgap 10 weeks 8 hours ago

I’ve said it over and over. Republicans only have one idea…just make the rich richer then everything will be fine. Everything they do and say is about one thing…make the rich richer!

whatabout's picture
whatabout 10 weeks 5 hours ago

Conservative values vs. Progressive values.

Given the fact democrat run cities all across America are in flames, here is yet another example of Democrats healing the divide.

This is the primary candidate winner for house district in St. Paul a democrat run city that is still burning. The "protest" was in the neighborhood of the president of the Police Union. The people this asshat was screaming are not associated with the union leader.

John Thompson is apparently the democrat party's best choice and he has the endorsement from MN's limp dicked Governor Timmy Walz.

Now that begs the question, where are these fools pre-printed tee shirts mourning the death of five year old Cannon Hinnant who was shot in the head in front of his siblings by Darius N. Sessoms. Maybe one of his five funerals will be covered by the mainstream media and spark outrage all across the country. Progressive values my ass. Malcom X was right about "liberals"

gnel1950's picture
gnel1950 10 weeks 5 hours ago

US Corporations have spent $ 9.2 TRILLION IN THE LAST 10 YEARS on BUYBACKS! There is the GUTTING of America. This represents roughly 80% of their BORROWING (debt issued for buybacks) Not spent on infrastructure, factories, innovation, new products, higher wages, benifiting Main Street. Wall Street is the enemy of the People, 90% of America hasn't figured it out yet, this mechanism of the rich pillaging the masses, legal THEFT . (source: zerohedge/Blain) You wonder why Sanders wants a billionaire tax? THEY OWN THIS SCHEME.

vetinla's picture
vetinla 9 weeks 5 days ago

Good rant @ 1, and true. Trouble is, since the both our "parties" are mostly owned by the monied elites, in the end, we get no REAL change no matter what "owned" party "wins".

Fact is; These are the two worst candidates in the history of the U$A. So, participate by all means, but, don't expect anything to change except the bit of therapy you'll receive. Oh, and if Biden wins, maybe our paid troll will STFU.

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