Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Final Republican casualty

By Frank Moraes 

Today over at The Plum Line, Jamelle Bouie discussed an issue that is close to my heart, "Don't Expect the GOP to Change on Gay Rights Anytime Soon." I think all this talk of the Republican Party moderating itself is nonsense. It is all a kind of mass pundit delusion. Moderates especially really want to think that the Republicans will be reasonable. And by that, they mean more liberal on the social issues that moderates care about.

Remember when Bobby Jindal created a stir about how Republicans had to stop being the "stupid party"? And what did he do to prove he wasn't stupid? He almost destroyed his political career by proposing an end to the state income tax to be replaced by a regressive sales tax. Republican claims at reform are nothing by a desire that the electorate won't notice all the terrible things they are trying to do.

Bouie noted that the Republicans are not going to moderate on same sex marriage even though a plurality of Republicans favors it. The problem is that the most consistent voters, the old, white, bigoted evangelicals really hate same sex marriage. And so the Republican Party is trying to appeal to them. But I wonder. Does that really explain it?

After all, the conservative base doesn't vote so consistently because they love the Republican Party. You see that in polls. About 30% of the electorate think of themselves as Republican. But often, the party only gets an approval of about 20%. The difference isn't people who are tending toward the Democrats; they just think the Republicans are being too liberal. These people are still going to go to the polls and vote Republican, even if they think the party has turned communist.

So why doesn't the GOP change?

The only reasonable argument is that the base wouldn't show up to the polls. But we know this isn't the case. Look at the Democratic Party. It is more than happy to snub its base in order to gain more moderate voters. In the Democrats' case, I'm not sure it works. But in the Republican case, there is much more to gain. A lot of people have a visceral dislike of the party beyond any policies. There are a lot of upper middle class urbanites who would find the Republican Party's economic conservatism very appealing if it weren't for their constant "Kill the gays!" and "Oppress the women!" rhetoric.

The problem, I think, is that the people who run the Republican Party are members of the base. They really do think that homosexuality and abortion are abominations. Part of this is just because since the time of Reagan, the state level party organizations have been overrun with evangelicals. But a good part of the problem is that after a while, you begin to believe your own propaganda. Republicans have been putting out so much fear and hatred over the years that they themselves are the final casualties. It's going to take some time to fix their systemic problems.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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