Jonathan Chait

The Anti-Government Backlash That Isn't

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Whatever you want to call the public mood as expressed in the upcoming midterm elections, it is surely not a revolt against big government. Here, via Philip Klein of the American Spectator, is a survey of Republican positioning on Social Security and Medicare:

For instance, Sarah Palin endorsed Republican Paul Gosar in Arizona's 1st District, writing on Facebook that he "shares our belief that the federal government's reckless spending is putting us on a dangerous path towards insolvency -- and he's determined to do something about that." Yet here's what Gosar has to say about Social Security on his website: "In addition to opposing the privatization of Social Security, I believe the retirement age should not be raised."

Meanwhile, in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, Republican candidate Scott Tipton has just run an ad in which he's surrounded by senior citizens and attacks John Salazar for cutting Medicare as part of his vote for the new national health care law. In the ad, Tipton vows, "I'll never put our seniors' future at risk. No cuts, no privatization, and no scaring our seniors just to try and win this election."

Tom Ganley, a Republican candidate for the seat in Ohio's 13th Congressional District, takes this stand: "My views on Social Security are simple. I believe the retirement age should remain the same, that taxes should not be increased to benefit the program, the program should not be privatized and above all, the program should be protected."

Even Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio, who has achieved conservative rock star status, has declared that the time for personal accounts has "come and gone" -- a position that at one time would have been grounds to brand him a RINO. (Though, in contrast to others, he has spoken of raising the retirement age.)

Meanwhile, an ad by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce attacking a Democratic candidate unironically announces, "Government run health care. Medicare cuts. Have you had enough?"

To the extent that even conservative voters have expressed a backlash against health care reform, it has largely expressed itself in the fear that their socialized medicine will be reduced in order to provide for others, rather than in any principled opposition to big government.

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