This is not the easiest of times for Republicans. The cycle of recovery that has worked for political parties since the Civil War, election defeat followed by re-examination followed by resurgence, is suddenly not working.
Instead, conservatives are convinced that old bromides and more volume will do the trick. So re-examination, re-thinking old ideas, looking for the possibility that old principles may be applied in the wrong way, does not happen. Conservatives push the party to the right, so moderates reject the rightward shift and leave the party. This shrinks the party and begins the next turn on the downward cycle. With some proportion of moderates gone, conservatives are a larger percentage of the remaining members, so they push the party even further to the right. This causes more moderates to leave, and the whole thing starts again.
So why has this destruction never happened before, at least since the Civil War? Technology, the internet, cable news, and the increasing domination of talk radio by Rush Limbaugh and company, all conspire to wrap Republican conservatives in a comfortable cocoon. They seek out a comforting message, one that will brace their indignant anger. They find the addictive concoction in the soothing seduction of selective news spins. Enter a new media environment. Cable news and internet sites combine with old reliable talk radio to tell folks that conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed.
Now comes news that the administration conservatives hate is still beloved by the American people. 72% of American voters have a positive view of President Obama. The internals are startling. 90% characterize him as being open to views other than his own. 3 of 4 say he is an honest, trustworthy, and strong leader. 62% say his views on issues are about right. For the first time in years, a majority of Americans say America is on the right track. So conservatives will smell the coffee and start to change, right?
One of my favorite conservative sites, Chuck Thinks Right, exposes the flaw in the favorable Obama ratings. Republicans do not share the enthusiasm of Democrats and Independents. Only 36% of Republicans like the President's performance so far. This aspect accurately reflects the presentation of FoxNews and, of course, Rush Limbaugh. A reader comment typifies conservative reaction: "So it turns out, it's not Americans that think Obama is doing a bang up job, it's Americans who are Democrats that are pleased."
The recent spate of polls also reveal this cheerful statistic. 21% of Americans now identify as Republicans, the fewest in more than a generation. So conservatives are being told that the 13 or 14% of the public who are Republicans and who are not enthusiastic about Obama invalidate the polls.
As a hopelessly partisan Democrat, I'm delighted with the numbers, and the spin. Republicans have no need to change. No need at all.
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It looks more and more like the Republicans have painted themselves into a (far right) corner.
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