At the 1988 Republican National Convention, Vice President George H.W. Bush talked about a "kinder and gentler" America. Four years later Patrick Buchanan scared the hell out of the country by declaring a "culture war." In 2000 George W. Bush gave us "compassionate conservatism." The Bush stratagems were cunning responses to focus groups and public opinion polls that show beating up on the poor and the weakest among us can make people feel uncomfortable. In 2012 we can expect more culture war rhetoric, but it will be clouded by the soothing sounds of reasonableness and moderation.
The trick thus far for the Romney-Ryan ticket has been to pretend to want to "save" Medicare even while putting forth Ryan's "voucher" plan that would end Medicare, not only "as we know it," but end Medicare period. The lies and distortions about their schemes for privatizing Medicare (which have been swirling around Republican circles for decades) are the 2012 election's equivalent of "kinder and gentler" and "compassionate conservatism": empty slogans designed to beguile voters.
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