The Republican governors got together in some god-forsaken place called Lost Pines, Texas, to discuss their collective futures and the prospects for winning more state houses in the November 2010 elections. Adam Nagourney was there, and he wrote about it. AdNags was most impressed by the lack of emphasis on social issues. These governors were focused on the health care bill, budget deficits, and kitchen-table issues facing voters in a down economy. Gods, gays, and guns didn’t enter into the discussion, and neither did birth certificates.

Part of this may well be a recognition that social issues are no longer a political winner in the fight for the hearts of independents. But the larger explanation is that governors have to govern. They can’t do that by obsessing over fantasies like death panels and gay indoctrination. Still, the Republican rhetoric about smaller state-based government doesn’t suit governors any better than it does candidates for federal office. At least, it doesn’t suit them in a down economy. Every state but Vermont has a constitutional duty to balance their budget. When revenues plummet at the same time that the number of people seeking government assistance spikes, governors are reliant on the federal government to make up some of the shortfall. Raising taxes in a down economy can be counterproductive, and there is a limit to how much they can slash programs without getting voted out of office.

The Republican governors are going to need federal assistance, but they are going to run on the evils of the federal government. When Obama sends them large checks, the won’t thank him. They’ll complain about the strings that are attached, and the national budget deficit. It’s just politics. Times change, but the Republicans’ ideology does not.

As for Congressional Republicans, their hypocrisy knows no bounds. They created this deficit and the accompanying economic catastrophe. They have always opposed Medicare. But, now, they are bemoaning the deficit and accusing the Democrats of making deep cuts to Medicare.

Seeing through the emptiness of Republican rhetoric is the key to understanding our national debate. If they came back to power, they would do the exact same thing they did under Reagan and Bush. They would explode our deficits and loot the treasury. The Democrats aren’t perfect, but when they waste money, they waste it on things like health care and education. Something to remember.

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