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Questioning Some Shaky Memes

With things happening pretty fast in Washington right now, it's important to deal with some questionable media memes that will if not challenged become established fact. I've brought up a few at Washington Monthly this week.

We continue to hear that one consequence of the 2012 elections is that the "culture wars" are finally, conclusively over. If you take a look at what's been happening at the state level over the last two years when it comes to reproductive rights, a declaration of victory is certainly premature (though defenders of such rights won some tactical victories in 2012). And indeed, some conservative expressions of despair on the cultural front don't represent acceptance of change, but perhaps a change in strategy, and an actual intensification of contempt towards those of us trying to live in the 21st century.

Meanwhile, on the fiscal front, both angry progressives and solace-seeking conservatives have adopted the line that Obama and congressional Democrats "enshrined" the Bush tax cuts in the New Year's deal. I think that misses the practical reality that most Americans viewed the pre-deal income tax rates as the status quo, and the deal as a selective tax increase (though one they supported).

Above all, widespread reports of splits in the Republican Party (based on the tax vote, the mini-revolt against Bohner's re-election as Speaker, and a lot of fiery rhetoric) are vastly over-stating the significance of differences of opinion over legislative strategy and tactics. If anything, McConnell and Boehner are taking a maximum hard line on early positioning in the debt limit/sequestration fight, and there is zero evidence of any significant reconsideration of conservative ideology beneath the legislative maneuvering.