Saturday, August 13, 2011

Explaining Republican Immoderation

Polls say a strong majority of Americans wants to see a balanced approach to deficit reduction: both cutting spending and raising revenue. So the question is, why are Republicans moving so far right of the country's preference? And why are they so vehemently opposed to compromise?

Here's an insightful answer from pollster Jeff Liszt, explaining the politics of the debt ceiling fight, and our current Congress in general, better than anything I've previously seen:
"I think if you look at the country as a whole, you're going to get a misleading idea of what Republicans' behavior is going to be in Congress. I had a hard time understanding what was going on in the debt ceiling debate as long as I was looking at polls that showed that only 20% of Americans supported the Republican approach and wanted to balance the budget only by cutting spending.

But the truth is you've got a combination in the Republican caucus of extreme members who were elected on Tea Party craziness who either don't know or don't understand the consequences of their actions, and members who watched all of their moderate colleagues lose in primaries in 2010. Remember, it's very fresh in their minds. They watched Castle lose in Delaware, and Lawden in Delaware, and they know that a minority of a minority is going to vote them out in their primaries. So you can't look at the polling among the general public and predict the behavior of the Republicans in the House."
Good point. In other words, non-extreme Republicans (there aren't more than a handful of genuinely moderate ones) are caught in a political trap detaching them from mainstream sentiment.

And it's killing us. In my rant last week about Republican brinksmanship re: the debt ceiling (a few days before S&P's downgrade), I said:
"I'm well aware...that this is mere opportunism, and that of course the freaking debt ceiling will be raised...But not before the business climate, hair-trigger sensitive about future interest rates, is chilled, markets tumble, and our rock-like world-leading fiscal steadfastness - America's premier asset - is irreparably eroded by the widespread horror at this cynical game of 'chicken'."
And Thursday, S&P senior director Joydeep Mukherji explained the credit downrating thusly:
"The stability and effectiveness of American political institutions were undermined by the fact that “people in the political arena were even talking about a potential default. That a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable. This kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns."
Alas, it's hard to fault his reasoning. Finally, Liszt noted this (and I'd bet pizza for a year he's right):
"I think a lot of moderate voters who helped put the Republicans in power in 2010 didn't expect this, didn't want this, and are going to punish them for it in 2012."

1 comment:

---Guy said...

The Tea Party is Newt and his "Contract" gang all over again. How long did it take for them to disappear? A couple years at the most? Yet again, history will repeat....

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