In one of many pieces of psychoanalysis… (what other way is there to understand House Republicans?), Ross Douthat… explain[s]… they hate the New Deal and the Great Society but are at a total loss for how to roll them back:
Conservative politicians take power imagining that this time… they will finally tame the New Deal-Great Society Leviathan … and then… the weight of public opinion tilts against them…. So what you’re seeing… is a revolt against… forty years of failure, in which first Reagan and then Gingrich and now the Tea Party wave have all failed to deliver….
Conservatives are actually even more lost than Ross lets on here. They have an abstract idea that they regret the New Deal and the Great Society. But they don’t actually want to undo… Social Security, SNAP, Medicare, Medicaid…. They’re boxed in by their own acceptance of the New Deal consensus, and their simultaneous unwillingness to admit that there is such a consensus….
Take SNAP, commonly known as Food Stamps. Participation in this program is at an all-time high, with more than 1 in 7 Americans receiving benefits. Conservatives are outraged. They are attacking Barack Obama as the “food stamp president.” And their radical plan is to cut SNAP… by 5….
Or look at Medicaid… not a single state has chosen to withdraw from the traditional Medicaid program, even though that would produce real budget savings and put a major dent in Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society legacy…. They have no fear of saying they want to deeply cut these programs, but they choose not to.
But if the conservative policy vision isn’t rolling back the Great Society, then what is it? Lately… scorched-earth opposition to anything Barack Obama wants. Before that… big deficits… to force conservatives to come up with some ideas about how to cut spending.
Before conservatives fix the problem that their ideas are unpopular with the public, they first have to figure out what their ideas should be. Otherwise, they’ll be left with the agenda that Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) laid out to the Washington Examiner yesterday: “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”