I remember what policies Barack Obama has in fact pursued:
- George H.W. Bush's tax policy.
- Mitt Romney's health-care policy.
- John McCain's climate-change policy.
- George H.W. Bush's foreign policy.
- Bill Clinton's spending policy.
- Dwight Eisenhower's Federal Reserve policy.
- George W. Bush's education policy.
The idea that we ought to be willing to raise taxes when we find, as a society, that we are not willing to cut spending--is there a more bedrock, conservative, Republican principle than that? Romney's individual mandate to purchase health insurance was originally sold as a conservative, Republican responsibility principle--and guaranteed issue was a fundamental principle of fairness. Similarly, carbon taxes and cap-and-trade are what the Daddy Party would say: clean up your room!
Obama was happy with the same kinds of Federal Reserve chiefs that George W. Bush was happy appointing. Et cetera. We could all write the speeches for Obama policy initiatives as rooted in conservative, Republican principles and rhetoric--indeed, some of us have.
So why the polarization?
David Frum has a theory:
Debt Ceiling Deal May Be Struck, but the Crisis Is Not Over Yet: The crisis in American politics won’t end until the larger crisis in American life finds some resolution. When the economy grows faster and Americans feel more optimism about their future; when Medicare costs are put on a more sustainable footing so retirees have less to worry about; when the pace of demographic change slows so that economic disagreement does not also become ethnic conflict; when the tax burden is more broadly shared so that high earners don’t feel that all society’s costs fall to them--then things will quiet down. None of those things look likely to happen soon, so brace yourself for more crises ahead.
I would disagree with a good deal of his framing--from my perspective national prosperity and national power require more immigration and more, not less, "demographic change"; what is needed is not lower taxes on very high earners but rather more moderate-to-high earners, and when income distribution is more equal the tax burden won't be as concentrated; what is needed is not more demagogical cuts to Medicare but more efficiency in Medicare, etc.
But the thesis that the Republican base is facing a moral and psychological crisis--that the coastal cities are not just more decadent and more hedonistic and more non-white but also richer and more entrepreneurial may have something to it.