March 21, 2013

Just this morning, House Republicans passed this year’s version of Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, which — if implemented — would defund the Affordable Care Act, slash tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, slash spending on social programs, and radically restructure the nation’s retirement programs. The measure won support from the vast majority of House Republicans, passing with 221 votes, with all Democrats in opposition.

It’s hard to square this vote with the GOP’s stated desire to expand its appeal to more voters. In its report on the 2012 elections, notes National Journal’s Nancy Cook, the Republican National Committee implores “Republicans to put forth new or different policy ideas to address the economic anxieties of the working and middle classes.”

And indeed, if you consider last year a referendum on budget policy, clear majorities expressed their support for President Obama’s economic approach, giving reform-minded Republicans ammunition for their views. In a CNN poll released just after the election, 67 percent expressed support for a deficit reduction plan that balanced spending cuts with tax increases. Likewise, in a December poll from the Pew Research Center, only 32 percent said debt could be reduced without raising taxes.

Despite this, Republicans continue to stick to the policies articulated by Paul Ryan and other hard-right conservatives, with little awareness that they may be a problem for voters. Yesterday, RNC chair Reince Priebus — the same figure who wants Republicans to do more to appeal to the middle class — dismissed the need for substantive changes to the party’s economic policies. “We’re not losing the issues on the math,” Priebus said. We’re not losing the issues on spending, and debt, and jobs, and the economy. Those are total winners for us.”

The simple fact is that this isn’t true. Middle class voters don’t trust the GOP to look out for their interests, and have voiced this with low ratings for the party (to say nothing of last year’s election results). But, as we’ve seen this morning, Republican leaders will continue to push the policies that cost it the White House and a number of Senate and House seats. Indeed, at this point, it’s hard to know if there’s anything that will spur the GOP to change course.