We in Democratic circles spend a fair amount of time going after Republican ideology: Particularly the dogma that tax cuts for rich people and corporations (which are basically the same thing) are magic, and exempting the privileged from any financial obligation to the republic they profit from will create a bottomless Jesus fish-basket of infinite future growth. But even acknowledging that some very dumb people may actually be deluded by the propaganda conservatives put out, I think we miss the point and compromise our own effectiveness focusing on what is really just a shield of lies and fantasies to cloak what is otherwise plain old corruption - very rich people doing whatever it takes to get even richer at everyone else's expense, and equally depraved people lower on the totem poll hopping along for the ride.
Answer me this: If someone burglarized your home, got caught, and then argued in court that they should be found Not Guilty because they were acting out of a sincere political opinion that the money they steal would eventually trickle back down to the victims and benefit the overall economy, would anyone even bother to consider that claim? Of course not, because it's not even an argument - it's just a laughably insulting lie thrown out by some greedy scumbag trying to get away with being a thief. And yet even we progressives who completely reject trickle-down policies nonetheless treat them as if they reflect a real political viewpoint rather than being exactly like the scenario just outlined.
When people make identical claims to promote identical actions committed by the wealthy against our national economy, we address them as if we believe they're being sincere - as if we accept the premise that they've somehow actually come to the conclusions they're stating through an intellectual process rather than just tossing out any old crazy shit they think will shut you up. "But Officer, burglars are Job Creators. You yourself might not have a job if the burglars weren't out there creating work for law enforcement. Really you should be thanking me. In fact, I deserve a medal."
An actual burglar who said this would be laughed out of the interrogation room straight to jail, but rich conservatives say it all the time: They force ordinary people to be economically dependent on being employed by them because they starve the public sector of revenues, then declare that we owe them our obedience and loyalty for the privilege of working to make them rich on their terms. They take the $50,000 of productivity a worker creates for them and then give back $10,000 because they haven't yet managed to abolish the federal minimum wage, then angrily demand to be thanked for their infinite graciousness by exempting their 9- or 10-figure wealth from taxation.
But for whatever reason, we use very different moral language to describe the latter version of thief than the former - we act as though they're merely deluded, describing them as "ideologues" rather than accepting the far more accurate (though more disheartening) fact that they are simply thieving liars without conscience who will say anything to excuse stealing from their employees, their customers, their investors, their country, pretty much everyone. We're in a state of denial about what these people really are and how bad it is that we continue to allow them to hold power in our country - they are not delusional, they're just people with a criminal mentality. They know exactly what they're doing, and they know damn well that nothing they say about what is in the best interests of our economy is true. But they couldn't care less - every word out of their mouths, every fake study they commission, every astroturf group they create, every Republican candidacy they fund, is just another con to help them get away with stealing.
And it's even more pernicious when it occurs on the part of people in the news media, the courts, and politics. Conservatives in those venues are not "ideologues" either, and they constantly prove as much by instantly flip-flopping whenever some Party line becomes inconvenient to their financial interests or the power through which they pursue them - state's rights one minute, hyper-federalism the next; small government libertarianism one moment, when the subject is social programs, then giant totalitarian bureaucracy the next when the subject is national security or the War on Drugs; one set of rules when the subject is rules they themselves have to obey (ideally, none at all), and a totally different set of rules when talking about how they're going to make other people obey them (by any means necessary, without limit or moral restraint of any kind).
We already have a word for that - a very simple, old, and powerful word: Corruption. The Republican Party is corrupt to its very core. It has no ideas and no arguments, just flat-out lies and rhetorical games to distract attention and deflect accountability. Republicans portray treason, bribery, and all other "high crimes and misdemeanors" committed in pursuit of personal financial interest in office as a moral act of principle in support of free enterprise, and it's nothing more than the silly burglar described above. They're arrogant crooks so secure in their impunity that they aren't content to just get away with it, they have to rub it in your face: They can't just burglarize your house, they have to piss on your couch, smear feces on your walls, throw your family photos in the toilet, rape your pets, and then wait for you to come home so they can present you with a bill for their "services." And if you're less than grateful, they become indignant, belligerent, and threatening - dare to defend yourself, and it would be you who is arrested.
So it's about time we stopped unconsciously accepting this idea that Republicans who burn our nation's economy to the ground to make rich people richer are "ideologues," because as bad as that is, the reality is far uglier and far shabbier - they are nihilists. They are sociopathic empty husks in human form who go around saying any damn thing that makes other people dance on puppet strings. If being Socialists would make them rich and you poor, them powerful and you helpless, they would be Socialists and Fox News would be full of people venerating Marx, Engels, Eugene Debs, and words like "syndicalism" would be heard in the halls of wingnuttery.
But as much power as even the Soviet Politburo wielded, it was a hell of a lot of work for them, and conservatives want their power perpetual and effortless. So Socialism isn't on the agenda - not because they're against anything about it, or even really care what it's about, but simply because there are easier and more convenient tools of thieving than going through all the effort of setting up a Socialist state for themselves to control. The whole point is to make other people do the work, and what better system for that than a corrupt laissez-faire marketplace: They become super-rich, the lower economic echelons are kept in line by desperate dependence on private-sector employment, and any troublesome or superfluous elements are disposed of by Nature or thrown in prison to work as slave laborers. If a natural disaster or act of war temporarily exposes the elite to some kind of financial setback, then - and only then - can the State step in and interfere in the marketplace, which is rationalized as a necessary evil (unlike feeding children or providing healthcare, which is always out of the question).
The words of conservatives frankly do not contain information. Their judicial opinions have no connection to the law. At no point in their creation and promotion of legislation do they ever actually consider what is in the national interest. Their actions do not arise from, and are not constrained by anything resembling a set of principles. Whether they're giving a stump speech in a political campaign, reporting news on a cable channel, writing editorials in newspapers, managing other people's money, passing legislation, or corrupting some other field of responsibility, the people we describe as conservative "ideologues" are simply hoping to get a share of the loot from the ultra-wealthy criminals who own them.
"Corruption" is a word of immense power, and its reality is undeniable when applied to Republicans, so use it promiscuously in association with them. A given conservative may or may not be an ideologue, but it doesn't matter - being irrational is not as potent an accusation in the public mind as the far more sinister charge of being a crook. So stop saying that Robin Hood-in-reverse fiscal policies are "ideological," and just say what they and their proponents really are: Corrupt. Republicans only support these policies because they make them personally richer regardless of the cost to the nation - there is no other reason.
Even those who don't truly benefit from supporting the GOP nonetheless believe they do, and get an ego-boost from imagining themselves being "in on" the scam, but don't bother trying to look for people who are sincerely deluded that conservative fiscal policies benefit America as a whole. They know it's bullshit, because it's obvious - no one believes that just handing rich people money at the public expense on the hope that maybe they'll use it to hire a handful of people and give back a fraction of the money is a good idea. No one believes that - you would have to be 6 years old or legally mentally incompetent to believe that.
The reason Republicans are able to get some working-class and middle-class people to vote for them is by convincing them that they'll be on the "winning team" - that they're one of the Select Few who would come out on top in the process. And so it's no less an expression of utter corruption than on the part of wealthy people who actually do benefit financially from it. The fact that those people are lesser thieves who get conned by more clever ones doesn't make them victims - they vote on the basis of corruption, out of pure, stupid, reptilian self-interest no different than if they were literally bribed, and the Bush years made the fact as abundantly clear as it could possibly be. There was no objective basis for any of his rounds of tax cuts, but they put quick cash in the hands of people who could be bought, and that's why no disgrace Bush committed was too extreme for those people to vote for him in 2004: They sold their country for a $700 check.
It ultimately doesn't matter whether a criminal actually believes their crime is beneficial to the victims - if so, they would be a raving psychotic, but it's really unlikely they do believe that, so just don't even bother assuming they do. As much credibility as you give to an armed robber who would make that claim, give the same level of credit to Republicans who say they honestly believe making themselves richer at your expense will improve your life. When they say things like that, they're not just wrong - they're lying, period. They're making shit up to excuse being criminals, and the fact that they constantly repeat it does not elevate their bullshit to the level of an actual political viewpoint: It just makes them prolific liars. We should not, and must not continue accepting criminality as a legitimate political viewpoint, and that's basically what Republican politics is at this point. They have a right to lie (at least as private citizens), but that doesn't mean we have to tolerate it socially and give it the stature of a legitimate disagreement. Call out the products of corruption as what they are wherever you see them, and don't be distracted by the lesser charge of "ideology."