Sunday, March 24, 2013

The GOP is Increasingly Estranged from Most of America

I often lament what has happened to the Republican Party - a party that I and most of my extended family belonged to for generations - and link the party's descent into insanity, racism and bigotry to the rise of the Christian Right within the party, especially at the grassroots level where many moderates have fled the GOP as it has become basically a sectarian party.   More recently the Tea Party has grabbed much of the media political coverage, but with some 85% of the Tea Party identifying as conservative Christians, the ultimate root cause of the GOP's decline is it unholy alliance with the Christianists.   Now, a column in the Washington Post by Andrew Kohut, the founding director and former president of the Pew Research Center, and a former president of the Gallup Organization, documents that the Christianist are killing the GOP and have pushed it to a point of no longer representing mainstream America. Here are some column excerpts:

The outsize influence of hard-line elements in the party base is doing to the GOP what supporters of Gene McCarthy and George McGovern did to the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s — radicalizing its image and standing in the way of its revitalization.

While there are no catchy phrases for the Republicans of 2013, their image problems are readily apparent in national polls. The GOP has come to be seen as the more extreme party, the side unwilling to compromise or negotiate seriously to tackle the economic turmoil that challenges the nation.

It is no surprise that even elements of the Republican leadership that had been so confident of a Mitt Romney victory — including when it was clear that he was going to lose the election — are now looking at ways to find more electable candidates and cope with the disproportionate influence of hard-liners in the GOP.

The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorably, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Although the Democrats are better regarded (47 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable), the GOP’s problems are its own, not a mirror image of renewed Democratic strength.

In our most recent national assessments, we found not only that the percentage of people self-identifying as Republicans had hit historic lows but that within that smaller base, the traditional divides between pro-business economic conservatives and social conservatives had narrowed. There was less diversity of values within the GOP than at any time in the past quarter-century.

The party’s base is increasingly dominated by a highly energized bloc of voters with extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns. They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.  These staunch conservatives, who emerged with great force in the Obama era, represent 45 percent of the Republican base.  .  .  .  the party will face great difficulty in reinventing itself.

[T]hree factors stand out in the emergence of the GOP’s staunch conservative bloc: ideological resistance to President Obama’s policies, discomfort with the changing face of America and the influence of conservative media.

The nation’s demographic and social shifts have also played a role in galvanizing the new bloc. Conservative Republicans are more likely (33 percent) than the public at large (22 percent) to see the growing number of Latinos in America as a change for the worse. Similarly, 46 percent of conservatives see increasing rates of interracial marriage as a positive development, compared with 66 percent of the public overall.

During Obama’s first term, ethnocentric attitudes — on immigration, equal rights and interracial dating — grew by 11 percentage points among conservative Republicans but did not increase significantly among any other political or ideological grouping.  

To the conservative base, Obama, as an African American in the White House, may be a symbol of how America has changed. Unease with him sets conservative Republicans apart from other voting blocs — including moderate Republicans, who have hardly been fans of the president. For example, a fall 2011 national survey found 63 percent of conservative Republicans reporting that Obama made them angry, compared with 29 percent of the public overall and 40 percent of moderate Republicans.

Any Republican efforts at reinvention face this dilemma: While staunch conservatives help keep GOP lawmakers in office, they also help keep the party out of the White House. Quite simply, the Republican Party has to appeal to a broader cross section of the electorate to succeed in presidential elections.  .  .  .  .   To win, both parties must appeal to the mixed values of the electorate. But it will be very hard for the Republican Party, given the power of the staunch conservatives in its ranks.
Note the heavy emphasis on race among those in the GOP base.  Racism and religious extremism are the twin pillars of today's GOP. 

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