Sunday, October 27, 2013

A look inside GOP bubble world - pt. 1, the nationwide view

For a lot of us in the above-ground, fact-based world, the tactics of the Congressional Republicans that continue to try to block, sabotage, and defund Obamacare are a mystery. Why continue to do symbolic, silly measures that damage the GOP brand both short and long-term, and in general act like a 3-year-old child? Well, a group of Democratic pollsters did focus groups of Republicans, and it can help explain this,

The study is called Inside the GOP: Report on focus groups with Evangelical, Tea Party, and Moderate Republicans, and is one of the more illuminating studies of human behavior you'll find. Read the whole thing, it's really good.

The study split today's GOP into three different groups- Evangelicals, Tea Partiers, and Moderates- and gathered information from all 3. They study found that in GOP world, Obamacare and the shutdown "strategy" is part of a belief that the ACA was not passed to help people or improving our country's economy. Instead they view Obamacare as a political move.
This goes to the heart of Republican base thinking about the essential political battle. They think they face a victorious Democratic Party that is intent on expanding government to increase dependency and therefore electoral support. It starts with food stamps and unemployment benefits; expands further if you legalize the illegals; but insuring the uninsured dramatically grows those dependent on government. They believe this is an electoral strategy—not just a political ideology or economic philosophy. If Obamacare happens, the Republican Party may be lost, in their view.

And while few explicitly talk about Obama in racial terms, the base supporters are very conscious of being white in a country with growing minorities. Their party is losing to a Democratic Party of big government whose goal is to expand programs that mainly benefit minorities. Race remains very much alive in the politics of the Republican Party.
The projection is strong with those comments, isn't it? Remember, this is a party that illustrates what Charlie Pierce called "The Triumph of the Ratfuckers", where everything's a tactic, and politics is like a sporting event, instead of a discussion on how to meet needs and make for a more perfect union. It goes a long way toward explaining why Facebook righties constantly post items relating to "lazy people on welfare" and "Obama giving people free stuff" instead of having empathy for those who have fallen on hard times- they think Dems and Obama only care about these people for the votes, not out of any sense of decency. Bizarre, but that's who you're dealing with.

Evangelicals are a huge part of the GOP THAT VOTES, which explains their outsized influence in the party, and they are definitely into the fear-filled crucifixion complex that is a mainstay of the 21st Century GOP in Wisconsin.
Evangelicals are a third of the Republican base; they are the biggest and most intense group: four-in-five are “strong” Republicans and straight ticket voters. Over three quarters are married and well over 90 percent are white. Their demographics – white, married, religious, and older – sets up a feeling that they are losing. They talk about how the dominant politics and cultures have encroached on their small towns, schools, and churches. What troubles them when they talk with friends, family, and fellow believers is Obamacare, guns, government encroachment, gay marriage, and “culture rot.”

They sense they are “pretty white” and “didn’t go to Harvard” – and “we’re just not [Obama]” – which means they are becoming a pretty “politically incorrect minority.” The so-called “tolerant” liberals just aren’t very tolerant when it comes to to them.
And because they sense that the "country they knew" has passed them by, they want to have a GOP and a media that fights back against that.
The only ones standing up for them against these forces are the Republican Party, Fox News, and the Tea Party – and the Grand Old Party is doing none too well.

Feeling most besieged by what is happening in the country, these strong Republicans need an effective and principled party, but they think many Republican politicians have lost their way. There are too many “RINOs” who cannot stop what is happening.
And Faux News and AM radio hosts tell them that their archaic mentality is fine and acceptable, which is a whole lot better than what the rest of the world seems to be telling them. So that's why they watch and listen to this crap. Tea Partiers say a similar thing about right-wing media, that it emboldens them, saying they're not so wrong for believing what they do.

Tea Partiers are a little over 20% of today's GOP, and have a common thread with the Evangelicals in that they also want to return to a "simpler time."
In both Tea Party groups, the phrase “back to basics” was repeated multiple times. What this means is they want to return to a time when they believe government was small, people lived largely free of the government, and Americans took responsibility for themselves.

This is not those times. Government is catering to those who have not earned their benefits or the freedoms of this country. They freely talk about food stamps, “welfare recipients,” and illegal immigrants. These groups are the most anti-immigrant, anti-food stamps, and anti-Obamacare and its potential beneficiaries of the Republican groups. They are also the most anti-Obama, anti Obama agenda and anti-Obama politics—because these threaten the basics.

Like other Republicans, they hate big government and dependency that are central to the Obama Marixist project, but they are also acutely alarmed at government invasion of their privacy, rights, and freedoms. Freedom is on the line.
Note the apocalyptic nature of their argument. It explains how every little incident can be blown into full-fledged Fauxtrage, and having hours of talk radio to fan the flames of these trivial issues plays right into this mentality.

Of course, they don't really want to go back to the simpler time of the 1950s, when banks were heavily regulated, unions were strong, and the rich were taxed at a 91% marginal rate. In fact, it's quite the opposite- Tea Partiers may idolize "capitalism", but they really back feudalism.
The Tea Party Republicans are staunchly pro-business—to the point of celebrating trickledown economics. While there was some skepticism about Wall Street in the women’s group, for the most part, these participants expressed pro-business, anti tax, anti-regulation attitudes. Even if they were not currently reaping the rewards of the economy, they did not blame business greed, but rather government regulation.

The whole middle-class-up economy format is completely ridiculous. Because who’s going to give the middle class their money? The upper class. The middle class isn’t going to make money coming out of nowhere. They’ve got to get a job. And who gives the jobs? The rich people. So if you take all the rich people’s money, they’re not going to be able to give anybody a job. Just it’s so backwards. [Obama] keeps talking about a strong middle class. I don’t want a strong middle class. I want to make all the middle class rich people, because then you’ve got even more rich people who can give more jobs. It’s like a – it’s just ridiculous. (Tea Party man, Raleigh)
Actually, that take is ridiculous, but much like with the evangelicals, the facts and history of policies don't matter, it's the principle that counts.

They also think the GOP needs to get on board with them, and won't bend in order to get things done, which plays right into the shutdown strategy. It's a horrible philosophy to try to govern with (and it's why it's such a failure in states with pro-Bagger governors and legislatures), but when you feel you're a minority standing in the doorway of a steamroller, then you feel that type of "governance" is still worth doing.

In contrast, Moderate Republicans still believe in governance, and don't feel things are going down the drain in the country. And despite their lack of representation in legislatures (as was evident in the DC shutdown, where almost all Republican members of the House went along with the shutdown strategy to begin with, and nearly 2/3 refused to open the government in the final bill), moderates do still make up a sizable portion of the GOP electorate- about 1/4 according to the Dem group doing the study. Moderates have some connection to the other groups in concern over the size of government, but they want government to get things done.
The moderate Republicans were surely concerned about big government. Their first associations with government are negative—it is too big and does not operate well. They associate it with “waste,” “inefficient,” “regulations,” and “red tape.” They believe their taxes are too high and believe government spends too much money on bureaucrats’ salaries and high end offices.

But those views of big government combine with more positive associations—how rights have progressed and how the country has become more free. They honor freedom without the same sense of threat as Tea Party and Evangelical Republicans....

[T]hey stand out for being equally concerned with government dysfunction – and the Republican Party role in national polarization and gridlock.
As one woman in Raleigh said, “I think for me it's a highlight of a lot of division. Everything seems very divided and angry.”
The lessened fear and positive beliefs also explain why moderates have a connection to the reality-based world, where many disapprove of Fox News and the crazies in today's GOP.
Some say they like the small government ideas the Tea Party was putting forward several years ago, but say they have been turned off by the Tea Party’s leaders, who are “unelectable,” “idiots,” “extreme"....

And on Fox News, many moderates outright reject it as a news channel: “It tells about as
much truth as like Jerry Springer does now.”
(Moderate man, Colorado)

Moderates are not so sure about their place in the current Republican Party. They worry about the ability of Republicans in Congress to make government work. They believe the party is stuck, not forward-looking, and representative of old ideas. They worry about the Republican Party’s right turn on social and environmental issues—which makes it difficult, especially for young moderates—to view the Republican Party as a modern party.
The same fizzures show up later in the paper regarding climate change, where Moderates respect science, like scientists, and many think something should be done. But the Evangelicals and the Tea Partiers are skeptical (at best) about scientists, and many think the climate change issue is a reminder of "outsiders" telling them what to do, with Tea Partiers in particular take it a step further, and think it's used as a bridge to regulate businesses. Again, the projection is strong with the Evangelicals and Tea Partiers.

So this study gives a good insight into why the 2010s Republican Party acts as it does- Evangelicals and Tea Partiers have the "with-us-or-against-us" mentality that typified the failures of the George W. Bush presidency, and it explains why these people do not believe in compromise or any semblance of the common good. They don't just view Democrats and President Obama as people with opposing views from them, but instead THEY ARE THE ENEMY encroaching on their way of life, and therefore must be opposed by any and all measures. This is in serious contrast with the Moderates, who still believe in governance, solutions and common ground. Unfortunately for the Moderates, they are outnumbered by the combination of Evangelicals and Tea Partiers, and those two groups especially are likely to vote in low-turnout GOP primaries. So you end up with a party overrun by people who don't believe in governance, think that social programs and scientific studies are politically-motivated plots (because THAT'S WHAT THEY'D DO), and find working with the other party to be a sign of weakness and a lack of commitment to the cause. So my question for the Moderates is- why would you continue to go along with a party that doesn't resemble your beliefs in governing and social issues?

From the opposing side, now that you realize uncompromising, cynical Evangelicals and Tea Partiers are the controlling force in the Republican Party, the best strategy is not to give these people an inch till they decide to play ball- in other words, the exact same strategy Congressional Dems and Obama pulled this month during the shutdown. And you see the results, as Republicans have tanked in polls over the last month. If Dems keep up the pressure, don't cave to these people on any of their budgetary hostage-taking, and continue to expose the Congressional GOP as the unfit-for-office bubble-worlders that they are, they should clean up in elections over the next 12+ months.

Now how does this translate into today's politics in Wisconsin? I'll go over that in a later post.

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