Republicans and conservatives have begun leaning more and more to the right over the past three years. This shift has delighted their base, frightened David Brooks, and thoroughly confused President Barack Obama, who keeps trying to negotiate with the ghost of Ronald Reagan. Below, I detail eight notable policy shifts of the right.
1. Quantitative Easing (QE) and the Fed:
Before: Conservative hero Milton Freedman supported QE in Japan. Beyond that, the GOP gave wide latitude to the Federal Reserve.
2. Keynesian Stimulus:
Before: In 2001, Paul Ryan supported Keynesian stimulus. In 2002, he said, "You have to spend a little to grow a little ... what we’re trying to do is stimulate the part of the economy that’s on its back."
After: Paul Ryan and nearly every Republican on earth now oppose traditional Keynesian stimulus. Ryan calls the kind of tax cuts that he previously supported, "a sugar high."
3. Immigration reform (including a path to citizenship):
Before: In 2005-2006, nearly half of Senate Republicans supported the McCain/Kennedy/Bush pro-immigration approach. Outside of Congress, Republican governors like Mitt Romney and columnists like Fred Barnes demonized opponents of Bush's plan.
After: Immigration reform becomes one of the most toxic GOP issues. John McCain (R-Ariz.) sums up the new climate best in his riveting 2010 reelection ad, "Complete the Dang Fence" where he exhorted policymakers to complete a useless fence at great expense.
Other notable shifts:
4. Climate Change: The GOP went from support of Cap and Trade to a mix of denial of climate science/reality and uniform opposition to climate legislation. In 2010, McCain opposed a cap and trade bill to the right of his campaign proposal.
5. Deficit reduction: George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan both supported and signed legislation mixing tax increases with spending cuts to reduce deficits. Today, like most Republican politicians, they would oppose a deal that included 10-to-1 in spending cuts to tax cuts.
6. Health care mandates: Gingrich, Romney, Hatch, Pawlenty, Huntsman, and the Heritage Foundation flip flopped on this. They went from various levels of support for mandates to "This is the End of Freedom!"
7. Education: Bush supported a massive federal intervention (NCLB), but eventually the GOP turned against it.
8. Rejection of Reagan Pragmatism: Today's Republicans would call Reagan a socialist and run him out of town, as he supported a gas tax increase, SSI tax increase, balanced tax reform bill ('86), corporate tax loophole crackdown (1984, 1986), and an income tax hike (1982).
Photo Credit: Ivy Dawned