Fiddling While the GOP Burns

Polls suggest conservatives are going out of their way to be unpopular.

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After the 2012 elections  – where the Republican Party didn't come especially close to winning the White House and lost the popular vote in the House, even as they held control of that chamber – many in the party talked about some sort of overhaul in order to reach elements of the electorate, like Hispanics, that are on the demographic rise. But if there's one clarion message that House Republicans and their conservative base allies seem intent on sending now, it's this: Reset? We don't need no stinkin' reset.

Their hope seems to be that 2014 will be a rerun of 2010, despite a regular flow of polling evidence which suggests that conservatives are fiddling whilst their party burns.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

The latest data comes from a Democracy Corps poll of battleground House districts produced by Stan Greenberg and James Carville. The topline result is that the most vulnerable Republican incumbents have lost ground even since last November. But a couple of smaller items stuck out at me as notable, for example:

  1. Fully 48 percent of voters in these Republican districts, when asked if they know which party controls Congress (which, you will recall, is enjoying record low public confidence these days), said "yes," and then erroneously replied that Republicans are in charge.
  2. Voters in competitive Republican districts have a dimmer view of the tea party movement than ever, with a -22 net favorability rating, down from -15 last October and -12 last summer.
  3. By a 34 point margin (64-30) voters in competitive GOP districts want their representative to "try and work with President Obama to address our country's problems" rather than "try to stop President Obama from advancing his agenda for the country."
  4. This on the heels of a Gallup poll released two days ago showing that Republicans remain unpopular relative to both Democrats and to history, and are more disliked than they have been at any time in the last two years.

    [See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

    And while House Republicans rally to stop whatever immigration overhaul makes its way through the Senate, a Gallup poll released yesterday shows that majorities of Americans favor every element of the immigration overhaul. The most popular part of the package? The pathway to citizenship: While House Republicans and conservatives outside Congress find it anathema and routinely claim that voters are skeptical of the measure, 87 percent of those surveyed favor it, a figure that doesn't vary much when broken out by party (86 percent of Democrats and Republicans alike favor it, as do 88 percent of independents).

    It's exceedingly rare in politics that 87 percent of Americans agree on anything. The only example that I can recall off-hand is the 86 percent of people who favor universal background checks on gun purchases … another issue on which base conservatives are dramatically on the wrong side of public opinion.

    But you wouldn't know it if you were judging by recent GOP behavior, both in Washington and around the country. As Steve Benen writes:

    There was a Tea Party rally this week, which followed a big fight over an anti-abortion bill that can't pass. In the states, we see a focus on culture-war issues, including state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds. On Capitol Hill, most Republican lawmakers are running around talking about "amnesty" and "illegals," which is every bit as insulting as their rhetoric about women.

    Yesterday, we even heard talk about "takers," as if the "47 percent" video never happened.

    And on the horizon, many in the GOP are already planning another debt-ceiling crisis.

    [See a collection of political cartoons on the tea party.]

    That's not to mention the repeated votes to repeal Obamacare, which like the abortion bill Steve references, is a waste-of-time sop to the GOP's querulous base. Birtherism even raised its head last week when South Carolina GOP Rep. Jeff Duncan conceded to an unhinged talk radio host that he had questions "about the president's validity."

    Reset? The only thing the right is interested in resetting is the calendar, back to 2011.

    • Read Peter Fenn: Can Boehner Deal with Angry Republicans on Immigration Reform?
    • Read Susan Milligan: Rep. Michael Burgess, Babies and the GOP’s Problem with Sex
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