I missed this yesterday, but it’s very good. Adam Serwer asks:

Why is it, in our supposedly center-right country, conservatives seeking to dismantle the welfare state need to pretend they’re actually preserving it? I thought the American people were just a bunch of rugged individualists seeking to free themselves from the yoke of government assistance thrust on them by crypto-fascist liberals. Apparently it’s not that simple.

Just in case the point isn’t completely obvious: if conservatives actually believed what they say about public opinion, they would behave in the exact opposite way — they’d be exaggerating the effects of their programs.

Of course, one could argue that they did just that with respect to the deal on FY 2011, in which the cuts turned out to be less than advertised. But on Medicare, Serwer is absolutely correct: Republicans in the House voted for a significant change, but are all upset that Democrats are correctly accusing them of doing so.

Also, one could argue that it’s hardly the Republicans’ fault that the American people are apparently suckers for “government is too big” rhetoric and “don’t touch Medicare and Social Security” rhetoric. Still, that’s not what movement conservatives will tell you, and so it’s a Great catch!

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.