In 1967, the political scientists Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantrill wrote that Americans were “ideological conservatives” but “operational liberals.” What they meant was that when asked broad questions about how government should work and what it should do, voters responded like conservatives. But when asked operational questions about which programs should be cut and which services should be eliminated, they responded like liberals. Voters like big cuts and smaller government in theory, but they don’t want to actually cut anything in practice.
Forty years later, this observation is, in political science circles, utterly banal. But in Washington, D.C., it’s almost entirely ignored. [cont.]
Ezra Klein, Washington Post
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