Republican Agonistes: GOP Wrestles With The Toxic Embrace Of Its Wingnut Base

Republicans were out this weekend in force, holding town-hall meetings designed to "reconnect" with constituents -- and demonstrating in the process t

Republicans were out this weekend in force, holding town-hall meetings designed to "reconnect" with constituents -- and demonstrating in the process that they remain as clueless as ever.

As it happens, there was also an interesting Rasmussen poll showing that those constituents basically despise them:

Just 21% of GOP voters believe Republicans in Congress have done a good job representing their own party’s values, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) say congressional Republicans have lost touch with GOP voters throughout the nation. These findings are virtually unchanged from a survey just after Election Day.

Among all voters, 73% say Republicans in Congress have lost touch with the GOP base.

Seventy-two percent (72%) of Republicans say it is more important for the GOP to stand for what it believes in than for the party to work with President Obama. Twenty-two percent (22%) want their party to work with the President more.

In other words, the Republican base, by a large margin, is unhappy with their party's political leadership for not being right-wing enough. And that happens to comport with what their real leadership, aka the Right-Wing Punditocracy, has been saying.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the electorate at large has a distinctly different outlook. They strongly want Republicans to cooperate with President Obama, and strongly believe they are not making a good-faith effort to do so, either. Republicans want to fight, but this not a fight Republicans are winning:

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll shows that the president has a 63 percent favorability rating. But 31 percent of Americans approve of how congressional Republicans have conducted themselves, a dropoff of 13 percentage points from February when the same question was asked.

Here's the standard GOP analysis of the problem:

Shortly after the November elections, Republicans en masse began to acknowledge that the party had lost its way on the issue of fiscal discipline during the Bush administration. Their vote against the stimulus bill was the first real test for Republicans to exercise their frustration with what they describe as excessive federal spending. And they're shaping a message around this theme.

"We are united," said Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "The debt of this country is a national crisis and a national security issue."

The problem with this is that Republicans seem to believe that it was simply George W. Bush's profligate ways with the budget that caused the economic disaster we currently are confronting. And that's part of the picture, to be sure. But only a small part.

The cold reality is that, as we explained after the election, the economic turmoil was created by a broad swath of Bush policies that, in every respect, were clear products of conservative fiscal and governmental philosophy:

The swirling global economic crisis produced by Republican rule is only the most prominent debacle produced by eight years of conservative philosophy being put into action. Conservatives never met a deregulation scheme they didn't like -- and it was that very mania for breaking down well-established institutional barriers, particularly in the financial sector, that led to the housing bubble and the collapse on Wall Street. Certainly, Democrats played along, often eagerly -- but they were being conservative when they did.

No doubt the solutions to the economic crisis will entail re-regulating the financial sector and imposing strict government oversight. And when they do, no doubt conservatives will accuse Democrats of indulging "socialism". But it is to laugh: the right has earned all the credibility of Joe the Plumber on such matters.

Especially when you consider all the other fruits of conservative governance:

  • Foreign-policy debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • A government that invades nations under false pretenses.
  • A nation less secure and at greater risk of terrorist attacks than ever.
  • A sinking economy.
  • An expanding gap between rich and poor.
  • Utter inaction on global warming.
  • $5-a-gallon gasoline.
  • An unresolved immigration problem.
  • An incapacity to deal with natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.
  • A debacle in public-school education testing and funding.
  • Declining food and consumer-product safety standards.
  • A government that spies on its own citizens.
  • A government that tortures prisoners held in their detention facilities.

These messes weren't the result of George W. Bush being too liberal and straying too far from the movement's party line. To the contrary -- they're the direct result of him toeing that line to the millimeter. They are all the direct product of the conservative philosophy of governance.

So it's not surprising that the public now believes more in liberal solutions than conservative ones:

The survey found the public holds greater confidence in Democrats than in Republicans in handling most of the issues that are involved in Obama's legislative agenda.

Democrats were favored by a margin of 61 percent to 29 percent on education; 59 percent to 30 percent on health care and 59 percent to 31 percent on energy. Congress is expected to consider major legislation later this year in all three areas.

Democats were also viewed with more confidence in handling taxes, long a Republican strong suit. The only issue among nine in the survey where the two parties were rated as even was in the war on terror.

Conservatives had their shot and blew it -- and it goes well beyond George W. Bush's budget failures.

About David Neiwert

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