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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Cosmetic Makeovers and Bloodless Purges

James Vega’s mockery of Republicans distancing themselves from their Tea Party allies is one part of the shell game going on in GOP circles in Washington at present. But another is an entirely superficial “makeover” being undertaken by insincerely repentant conservatives, supplemented by “purges” of right-wingers that never really draw blood. I’ve been writing about both phenomena at the Washington Monthly this week.
Ever since Election Day, leading Republican pols and opinion-leaders have been agitating the air with calls for major changes in GOP leadership, technology, messaging, and attitudes–changes in everything other than ideology. The latest exhibit of illusory change was a big event: Tuesday night’s Jack Kemp Foundation dinner featuring two potential 2016 saviors, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan. The former got deeply substantive about the GOP’s new ideas, trotting out every stale conservative policy proposal of the last decade. The latter reframed–but did not change–conservative “entitlement reform” proposals not as efforts to stop raids on “makers” by “takers,” but as deeply compassionate measures to liberate the needy from their slavish dependence on government assistance.
Meanwhile, you’d get the impression listening to a lot of the louder right-wing voices that the RINO GOP Establishment is conducting a house-to-house search for true conservatives and then taking them out and shooting them after ransacking their pockets for tax concessions to Obama. Truth is Boehner and company have made no concessions beyond those already signaled by the Romney campaign’s embrace of loophole-closing as a potential way to generate deficit savings (the Jim DeMint’s of the country oppose any negotiations that do not include a balanced budget constitutional amendment with a permanent percentage-of-GDP limit on spending and taxing), and most GOP maneuvering appears to follow Grover Norquist’s instructions to avoid Republican complicity with any real fiscal fix. As for “purges,” yes, a couple of back-bench Tea Party types have lost prime committee positions–but mainly because they voted against the Ryan Budget, hardly a RINO measure.
Another conspicuous “purge” said to indicate the new pragmatism of the GOP was the apparent decision by Fox News to keep Karl Rove and Dick Morris off the air. “True conservatives” would laugh heartily at the idea these guys are suffering for their sins; Rove was the author of virtually all of the Bush administration policies condemned by today’s conservatives as heretical, and Morris–whose main principle seems to be devotion to his own pocket-book–is nobody’s ideologue, but simply America’s most hackish hack.
Maybe the GOP will eventually conduct a real makeover and hold actual purges, but it ain’t happened yet.

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