Some Battle. Some Soul.

Interestingly enough, “centrist” John Avlon looks at the recent brouhaha between Jeb Bush and Grover Norquist and see not a commissar cracking the whip on a pol saying inconvenient things but rather a “battle for the soul” of the Republican Party, with Bush representing a “growing backlash” against Norquistian litmus tests and ideological rigidity generally.

Man, that’s some wishful thinking all right, perhaps understandable coming from Avlon, who used to belong to the now-vanished moderate wing of the GOP.

But as inaccurate as I think Avlon’s assessment is, there’s danger in accepting his assessment of what would represent a backlash against conservative activist tyranny, were it to happen. One of his figures of great courage is Sen. Lindsay Graham, who has simply said he’d accept the idea of devoting a small portion of revenues raised by “loophole closing” to deficit reduction rather than tax-rate-reductions. A four-to-one spending-to-taxes ratio would be fine with him, as a way to get “entitlement reform.”

So are non-Republicans supposed to snake-dance through the streets in joy at the bravery and patriotism of a GOP senator who’ll grudgingly accept keeping tax rates where they are in exchange for the decimation of Medicare and Medicaid? No thanks.

Find me one Republican who’s willing to reflect his or her passion for deficit reduction by supporting a return to the top-end tax rates of the Reagan, Bush 41 or Clinton administrations, and then we’d be talking. Until then, the “battle for the soul of the GOP” is a small skirmish over tactics, not some real ideological reconsideration.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.