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Big Government Conservatism

By Matthew Yglesias on November 5, 2008 at 12:14 pm

"Big Government Conservatism"

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If you hop over to the Cato blog, you can find a bunch of posts stating that the reason Republicans have lost ground in 2006 and 2008 is that they’ve permitted too much spending. What you don’t see is much evidence to support this argument, or any serious consideration of the possibility that the GOP became more spending-tolerant (approving, e.g., the 2003 Medicare bill) and the Democratic Party won elections for the same underlying cause — public opinion that demands more government services.

I see exit poll data showing that 60 percent of the public was worried about rising health care costs and that 66 percent of those people backed Barack Obama. Presumably not because they thought the Republicans had been insufficiently vigilant about blocking pork barrel spending (it was John McCain after all) but because they thought Obama’s big government health plan spoke to their concerns while McCain’s small government alternative didn’t. I see that 50 percent of voters said they’re “very worried” about economic conditions and 59 percent of them voted for Obama. I don’t see in there any data whatsoever to back up the idea that there was an anti-spending backlash against Republicans that provoked people to vote Democratic, nor do I see evidence of a Libertarian Party surge or any such thing. I see people worried about economic conditions and rising health care costs who felt that McCain’s campaign — which made a spending freeze and a porkbusting crusade the center of its efforts — wasn’t speaking to those problems.

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