March 1, 2012 3 Comments
When EJ Dionne calls anybody a radical, it’s time to take notice.
It’s not exactly “Ask not what your country can do for you,” but these ideas do appeal to Romney’s most faithful constituency in primaries: Republicans earning more than $200,000 a year. In Michigan, they backed him over Santorum by 2 to 1.
They’re Romney’s base for good reason. That “across-the-board” tax cut sounds fair and balanced. But a Tax Policy Center studyin November of the impact of a 20 percent across-the-board rate cut showed that the wealthiest 0.1 percent would get an average tax reduction of $264,000. The poorest 20 percent would get $78, and those smack in the middle would get $791.
Okay, good stuff, but what I really like is that later on Dionne makes a point that I’ve been thinking about for years:
There is a terrible bias in the mainstream media that judges “moderation” almost entirely in relation to positions on social issues such as abortion or gay marriage. The media love these issues because they often involve sex, which everyone likes to read about, and do not demand elaborate explanations, charts or tables.
Go right on social issues, and the extremist charge can’t be far behind. But the media rarely peg an extreme economic conservative as “extreme” because doing so requires tedious math-laden paragraphs. Besides, people in pinstriped suits who are driven by money don’t seem “extreme.” [emphasis mine]
Bingo! Back in the day when everybody always used to refer to Christine Todd Whitman as moderate solely on the basis of her being pro-choice, I actually tried to do some political science on this (wow– just found the line on my CV– it was 10 years ago). Here’s the results section of the abstract from my 10-year old Midwest Political Science Association paper (with Laurel Elder):
Our analysis demonstrates that abortion is a very substantial contributor to overall liberal/conservative placement, rivaling or exceeding the impact of issues such as affirmative action, and government job assistance. This impact is particularly pronounced among evangelical Protestants. Moreover, perceptions of where presidential candidates stand on the issue of abortion likewise appear to have a significant impact on assessments of their ideology. In fact, in most years, only government spending and defense spending exceed the impact of abortion on perceptions of ideology. Overall, our findings suggest that abortion plays an even greater role in American politics than previously thought.
Actually got this half-way to publication and kind of got stuck. I think it would be well worth revisiting with gay marriage. I’ve got a very strong hunch that no matter what a Republican thinks about taxes, the economy, etc., supporting legal abortion or any legal recognition for gay couples would make him a “moderate” in the eyes of most voters and pundits. And that you’d get a similar effect on the Democratic side. Hmmm, maybe I should revisit for my 2013 MPSA paper.