What do Republicans want on the economy? They’re not sure anymore

Analysis: The party’s entire way of thinking about fundamental principles is changing.

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was not a supporter of former President Donald Trump’s quest to overturn the election. But he has declined to weigh in on the party’s ongoing purge of anti-Trump Republicans, because it distracts from the issue he thinks should unite the party: opposing President Joe Biden’s economic agenda.

In fact, these two issues are linked. Part of the story of Republicans’ continued post-2020 drift back into Trump’s orbit is the failure of GOP leaders to keep their party’s focus on budget fights going on in Congress.

As a result, traditional conservative arguments against Biden’s proposals on taxes and spending have so far failed to connect with Trump voters, who polls show are divided over the president’s plans or express no opinion either way.

The confused Republican voter

These moves helped bring millions of working-class independents and nonvoters into the Republican fold, and the party badly needs them to win. But Republicans are starting to realize how much the tradeoff has affected their traditional message.

An Economist/YouGov poll this month found that 71 percent of Republicans under 45 favored more government spending to create jobs, even if it required higher taxes. Among Republicans over 45, the numbers were almost perfectly reversed: 74 percent favored prioritizing lower taxes. The split between older voters who came of age under Ronald Reagan and younger voters defined by Trump reflects two different lived experiences as to what conservatism means.


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