The GOP's Big 180

[ Posted Thursday, February 9th, 2023 – 16:23 UTC ]

It is always amusing when the Republican Party is forced to perform a whiplash-inducing 180-degree turn on an issue that they've solidly been on the other side of for a very long time. The previous notable instance of this was likely during their whole "repeal and replace Obamacare" fiasco, when they suddenly realized en masse that one of the most popular things about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was the protection of people with pre-existing conditions who had previously been categorically denied even the chance to purchase health insurance. All of a sudden, Republicans started swearing up and down that they would also protect people with pre-existing conditions -- usually without a hint of how they were going to accomplish this fact. But they all started singing from Obamacare's playbook and praising it to the skies as a good thing (where previously they had tried to convince everyone that everything in Obamacare was bad and downright evil). In Tuesday's State Of The Union speech, President Joe Biden forced another major ideological U-turn of this magnitude upon the GOP, ironically aligning himself (!) with Donald Trump in the process. That's got a certain "through the looking glass" quality to it, you have to admit.

Biden performed the most spectacular trolling of Republicans I have ever witnessed, in fact. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called it a successful "rope-a-dope" strategy, which metaphorically works too. Biden seemingly did the impossible by getting Republicans -- all of them, from the sound of it -- to fervently cheer the idea of protecting Social Security and Medicare from any budget cuts. This has long been a core Democratic goal, although some Democrats have occasionally wavered in the face of Republican demands to gut the safety net for retirees and seniors (see: Barack Obama's proffered "Grand Bargain," for just one example).

But there it was -- Joe Biden achieved the impossible and got them all cheering right alongside the Democrats in favor of not slashing the funding for either program. Biden then cheerfully spiked the football in unprecedented fashion: "Social Security and its bookend, Medicare, are off the books now, right? We have unanimity!" Most presidents don't get moments like this in their annual speech to Congress and the nation, and without doubt this will be the one part of Biden's speech that everyone is going to remember for a very long time to come.

But while watching Biden turn opposition heckling into political gold was amusing, what is even more amusing is the fact that he and Trump are now in lockstep on the issue. This is, without doubt, a first. Trump had been preparing to make some major political hay over the issue just within his own party and for his own purposes, perhaps expecting Democrats not to notice. For Trump, this is a rare occasion where he's been ideologically consistent (to give him credit). He has always said Social Security and Medicare shouldn't be touched by the budget-slashers. He bucked his own party to take this position back when he first ran, but few of his fellow Republicans ever joined ranks with Trump over the issue. How could they, when the Republican Party has been attempting to dismantle both Social Security and Medicare ever since they were created?

This is just a historical fact, and it is one that the new GOP 180 turn has exposed. Republicans are now attempting to go on friendly media and express their outright horror [pause for them to frighteningly clutch their pearls...] at the idea of changing Social Security and/or Medicare. But over on actual news channels, people are already beginning to dig out all the voluminous amount of archived clips of Republicans calling for exactly that result. Oh, they learned to obfuscate their real goals by referring to "entitlement programs," but there are just too many Republicans to count who have indeed called for cuts to the programs, limitations on who gets it (like raising the retirement age), or just outright killing them and replacing them with some sort of GOP fantasy (like the push to change Social Security to private retirement accounts). They have been pushing these ideas for decades, which makes all their professed innocence now downright laughable.

Trump, as mentioned, was planning on using this issue against his strongest competitor so far, Ron DeSantis -- who (like just about every other Republican politician out there) has also called for fundamental changes to Social Security and Medicare. Trump figured it was a good populist issue he would be on the other side of, and he planned to use it as a bludgeon against not just DeSantis, but probably most of the rest of his party's competition for the nomination as well.

But now, to do so, he's going to be making President Biden's case for him. Which is also rather amusing -- could Biden have actually "stolen the issue back" from Trump? If Trump tries to use it against DeSantis, will DeSantis say something like: "He sounds just like Joe Biden!" on the campaign trail? That would certainly be interesting to see play out.

Trump -- and Biden -- are actually on the right side of the issue. There is a reason why Social Security has traditionally been called a "political third-rail" -- so charged with power that "if you touch it, you die." And that reason is that Social Security and Medicare are wildly, wildly popular... especially among old people... who are the most reliable voters in America. It is the traditional Republican position which is wildly out of step with public sentiment -- which is precisely why they don't like it when Democrats bring it up or point it out. And which is why they so strongly reacted to being called out on it on Tuesday night.

But, again, there is that absolute mountain of evidence of Republican politicians calling for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Maybe over on rightwing news stations they'll be insulated from having their own obvious hypocrisy called on the carpet, but they dug this particular grave all on their own. Republicans can induce whiplash all they want -- they can pretend to be the great champions of Social Security and Medicare until the cows come home -- but they are not going to succeed in doing so. Especially not after getting so delightfully "owned" by Joe Biden, in real time on live television.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


14 Comments on “The GOP's Big 180”

  1. [1] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Not bad for an old fart. Who cares if Joe stutters and is a walking gaffe machine? That’s just Biden. You elect a team when you vote for President which makes Joe’s age less relevant. This certainly suggests that Joe will manage the House dumpster fire just fine.

    My own hunch is that Joe resigns towards the end of his second term to get Kamala the advantage of incumbency when she runs in 2028. Y’all heard it here first.

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    My bad, poet. Being bitterly disappointed in Obama is no excuse for that kind of language.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Kamala ain't presidential material. Actually, I can't think of another Dem who is. Well, not one that would seriously considering running for office again, anyways.

    So, Republicans have some small number of years to get their act together ...

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i also have the suspicion that biden doesn't finish his second term. he's such a trooper, i don't doubt that his desire to run again is motivated less by ambition than by a sincere desire to do good. so far, he's been a pleasant surprise at every turn.

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Kamala was the Senate’s most liberal member and joins Bernie and Elizabeth on the Democratic wing of the party. Cory and Amy and Mayor Pete et al also would work. Whether it’s Trump or not, who do have the Republicans have? Besides Mitt Romney.

  6. [6] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    I hope this does shelve those two issues for the term of this congress, permanently being better. Obviously. (The main reform of social security should be raising or eliminating the point at which the better-off cease to pay into it, the opposite of what Repugs want.)

    The problem with raising the age is that poverty and low wages tend to go with poorer health and less ability to work as people age. The better-off may just be at the upper end of middle-aged at 65 but someone who worked at minimum wages from their teens may well be physically old and is more likely to have multiple health issues, even with Obamacare and Medicare.

  7. [7] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Biden 1, Congress Reps 0, and long may this continue. On current form, no reason he shouldn't run again and his present health suggests he could complete another term.


    1. As of now, who would could launch a reasonable run in 2024 if Biden didn't/couldn't?

    2. Any thoughts on who might be ready and suitable in 2028?

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Yeah ... nobody.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    But, I could be wrong.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Another question ... is there anybody in the Democratic Party now who is young and willing to learn a lot and put in the time and energy and immerse themselves in forming a base of knowledge and expertise across many fields in order to become an up-wing national leader respected on the world stage?

    Has Biden groomed anybody? Not that I know of ...

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Scratch that last bit. I think Beau Biden might have been that Democrat ... but, like Mezzomamma, I'd like to hear about others!

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I wish I could remember who that young congressman was from the Black Caucus giving Biden some great advice the other day...

  13. [13] 
    Kick wrote:


    But while watching Biden turn opposition heckling into political gold was amusing, what is even more amusing is the fact that he and Trump are now in lockstep on the issue.

    Operative word there being "now," you mean, right?

    But are they, really on the same page?

    You know there is always a tweet:

    Donald J. Trump

    I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid. Huckabee copied me.

    10:38 AM May 7, 2015

    Pop Quiz: How many White House budgets did Trump propose that didn't cut Social Security, Medicare, and/or Medicaid?

    Hint: Trump's 2020 budget made cuts to all three.

  14. [14] 
    Kick wrote:



    My bad, poet. Being bitterly disappointed in Obama is no excuse for that kind of language.

    I'm glad to hear you "say" that. Now get a dictionary and learn what the term "underperform" actually means, and whatever you do, don't read what I wrote on the prior commentary at [24]. :)

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