That’s what a lot of pundits say. But let’s examine the assertion a little more closely.

There is a reason why the Republican Party, and leading politicians in the Republican Party, and the bosses of the Republican Party (such as Limbaugh, Rove, Norquist etc.) take the positions they do. They believe in those positions:

  • They believe that Medicare should be turned into an (inadequate) voucher, with the savings going to tax cuts for the wealthy.
  • They believe that abortion should be banned in all cases, including rape.
  • They believe that if the Likud leadership in Israel wants to abandon Israeli democracy, then the United States should support them in those efforts.
  • They believe we should go to war with Iran. (Maybe not Norquist; the rest of them do.).
  • They believe in severely cutting Medicaid and Food Stamps, and for that matter destroying the EPA and shrinking the federal government to the size of a bathtub.
  • They believe that America is being overrun with immigrants from cultures that they do not like, and want to maintain America as a predominantly white country.
  • They believe that gays and lesbians do not deserve equal rights.
  • They believe that climate change is a hoax, and that most public lands should be privatized for private mineral exploitation.
  • They believe in torture.
  • They believe that unions should be destroyed.
  • They believe that the New Deal and the Great Society are socialism.

They believe these things. It is an indication of the cynicism of much of the Beltway media that it tells Republicans to give up their beliefs in order to win elections, as if power for its own sake is what politics is about. It is not.

Democrats did not give up their belief in, say, universal health coverage when Reagan won and Dubya won. That’s what political parties are for.

Media types might say that they are only asking for some sort of reframing or repackaging. That’s a nice way of saying that the GOP should obfuscate its message and attempt to fool the voters, which of course is much of what Romney and Ryan were trying to do anyway. This, in turn, reflects the Beltway discomfort with any arguments about substance, an obsession about tactics and horse races because policy is just too boring, and a contempt for the electorate.

But we hope that politicians and leaders actually believe in things, advocate for them, and give the public a chance to judge them. In a democracy, despite the cynicism that all of us dabble in, that really isn’t too much to ask.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

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Jonathan Zasloff is Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law.