David Frum

03.15.13

The New GOP: Taxes Before Defense

Mark Wilson/Getty Images ()

Joshua Green of Bloomberg Business Week says that President Obama made a big mistake in the sequester fight: He over-estimated how much Republicans care about defense.

One reason so many people assumed sequestration would work is that it ensured a showdown between two important factions of the party: the anti-tax crowd and the pro-defense crowd. Until now, these groups had easily co-existed, despite the inherent contradiction in their objectives (cutting taxes shrinks the government, while spending more on the military expands it). GOP leaders were always willing to accommodate both, deficits be damned. … [This time] Anti-tax activists steamrolled the defense crowd. Why? The answer probably lies in the composition of the Republican caucus, especially in the House: Nearly half its members—48 percent—were elected in 2010 or after. These Republicans are genetically different from those who held power in the 1980s and ’90s.