Political Animal


July 18, 2011 10:00 AM No one likes the GOP’s reckless tactics

By Steve Benen

When it comes to public opinion and the debt-ceiling fight, Republicans assume that the public is with them, and voter support bolsters the GOP’s refusals to negotiate.

The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

Americans are unimpressed with their political leaders’ handling of the debt ceiling crisis, with a new CBS News poll showing a majority disapprove of all the involved parties’ conduct, but Republicans in Congress fare the worst, with just 21 percent backing their intransigent resistance to raising taxes. […]

Even half of the Republican respondents (51 percent) voiced disapproval of how members of their own party in Congress are handling the talks.

Got that? Most Republican voters think their own party’s officials are wrong.

To be sure, the public doesn’t seem especially impressed with anyone in Washington right now, and that’s not surprising. But I put the CBS poll’s results in a chart to help drive the larger point home.

The columns on the left show support for President Obama’s handling of the fight, with critics slightly out numbering supporters. The middle columns show support for congressional Democrats, who only draw 31% support.

But it’s congressional Republicans who bear the brunt here, with only 21% approving of their tactics, as opposed to 71% who disapprove.

Also note, this poll comes on the heels of four separate national surveys, all of which showed most Americans agree with Democrats that a debt-reduction agreement should include a combination of cuts and new revenue.

Under sane circumstances, Republicans would see results like these and think, “Maybe we ought to shift gears, since the American mainstream is turning against us.” But congressional Republicans assume none of this matters — the 21% who are still with them is the base that shows up on election day, and Super PACs will spend gajillions to convince everyone else that Democrats are demonic communists anyway.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • T2 on July 18, 2011 10:06 AM:

    yep, that 21-23% are the dead-enders who were with Bush to the end (while he was raising the debt ceiling numerous times and running up a huge Deficit).
    It's that bunch of largely older, largely mid/low class, totally white "citizens" that help ruin the nation under Bush and are now continuing to ruin it. When will the rest of us decide enough is enough???

  • Anonymous on July 18, 2011 10:12 AM:

    It's great to see Republicans who put their country before their party. Crickets from the media.

    Republicans for Obama is a grassroots organization of proud party members who all share one important traitó we are Americans first and Republicans second.

    Founded in late 2006 as part of the nationwide effort to encourage then-Senator Obama to run for the Presidency, our volunteer-run, grassroots group now includes thousands of members from across the nation. Together, we represent a cross-section of the millions of Republican and conservative independents who support President Obama's reelection in 2012.

    Although we have campaigned, worked for, and voted Republican all our lives, we recognize that President Obama is the right leader for our country at this time. Our current Republican leadership is unable to stand up to the most extreme elements in our party, no matter the circumstance. Meanwhile, President Obama has challenged his own party on numerous issues, including taxes, healthcare and foreign policy. President Obama has forged a pragmatic, common-sense path forward during a challenging time.

    President Obama has rejected the politics of division and the win-at-all-costs attitude that has hurt our ability to move forward as a nation. While we as Republicans will not always see eye to eye with President Obama, we know that his politics of unity will lead to a stronger America.

    -Republicans for Obama


  • Josef K on July 18, 2011 10:15 AM:

    I suspect the Republican rank and file are already aware of these poll results, but are looking at the 21% who support them as the only ones who matter. The GOP is less a political party now and more of a tribe.

  • Johnny Canuck on July 18, 2011 10:15 AM:

    1. as with the health care debate, some opposition to Obama is that he has compromised too much, pity they don't appear to have asked the question. As to Republicans, I wonder how much of their disapproval comes from those who think they weren't extreme enough!!!

    2 Isn't it interesting that the Republicans are slightly more optimistic than Democrats that a debt ceiling agreement will be reached.

    Do you think Barack Obama and the Republicans in Congress probably will or probably will not reach an agreement on raising the debt ceiling before the August 2 deadline? T R D I
    Probably will 66 65 70 63
    Probably will not 31 30 28 33

  • Ben on July 18, 2011 10:16 AM:

    A thought occurs: is the current political dysfunction a product of redistricting efforts creating such safe districts for either political party that legislation is now geared more towards winning a primary than to winning a general election? In order to get re-elected, must office holders now pander to the extreme rather than the center?

    If so, how do we fix it? The obvious point would be to focus on state governments and work to implement apolitical redistricting methods. Do any states have good approaches to redistricting?

  • Danp on July 18, 2011 10:23 AM:

    Redistricting could be a very big risk for Republicans. The idea is to create more Republican districts by diluting Dems. But it may turn out that a slight change in public opinion could turn a lot of Republican districts blue. If I were consulting, I would caution Reps to tread cautiously, especially in states like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine, Florida and NJ, where Rep support is waning due to over-reach by Tea Smokers.

  • MimIkatz on July 18, 2011 10:23 AM:

    The GOP is concrete proof of the old adage that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.". Was there ever a smaller mind in a position of leadership than Eric Cantor?

  • c u n d gulag on July 18, 2011 10:24 AM:

    Charts and graphs?

    Real Conservatives don't need no polls.

    We KNOW what the American people need, even if we have to trick or beat them into it.

  • Diane Rodriguez on July 18, 2011 10:24 AM:

    The Republicas have no interest in the opinions of the American People. Their orders come straight from the Koch conglomerate via the batshit phone.

  • Johnny Canuck on July 18, 2011 10:24 AM:

    is the current political dysfunction a product of redistricting efforts creating such safe districts for either political party that legislation is now geared more towards winning a primary than to winning a general election?

    In Canada several decades ago we took decennial redistricting out of the hands of politicians and put into an independent non-partisan body. logical geographic divisions determine boundaries.

    Of course, I know US never looks to Canada for ideas so I won't hold my breath.

  • DAY on July 18, 2011 10:24 AM:

    " Republicans assume that the public is with them"

    No, they SAY the public is with them, and, having learned that a lie repeated enough becomes the truth, will continue the process until reporters call them on it.

  • Mr. Serf Man on July 18, 2011 10:27 AM:

    Even Ross AssHat in the NYT is taking notice
    I had to write a response even if it will be posted as comment # 347 that no one will read.

    Wow Things are really bad when Ross Douthat wakes up and notices the Republicans have lost their collective minds.

    I love this, very rich, Mr Douthat: \"It turns out that Republicans didnít have a plan for transitioning from the early phase of a high-stakes political negotiation, when the goal is to draw stark lines and force the other side to move your way, to the late phase, in which the public relations battle becomes crucial and the goal is to make the other side seem unreasonable, intransigent and even a little bit insane.

    When Democrats are the only ones to put forth a reasonable pan , it is difficult to pronounce them insane.

    When we hear that soundbite that the networks love to repeat of Mr. Bohner telling the President he needs to bring a plan to the table.

    Excuse me? What was the plan that exceeded everything they had originally asked with a few (17% of the total) bones of tax increase thrown in.

    Mr Obama last time I checked has no authority to pass any legislation. That Mr. Bohner is your job.

    In the name of ideology the Republicans have abdicated their responsibility to do what is best for the country by putting the Norquist pledge above their oath of office.

    Go back and read your oath of office.


  • blondie on July 18, 2011 10:31 AM:

    Josef, you wrote, The GOP is less a political party now and more of a tribe.

    I tend to think of other words, like:


  • Just Guessing on July 18, 2011 11:02 AM:

    This is end result of faith based politics by the Republican crazies - we believe what we are doing, as God put us on this path, never mind the evidence to the contrary.

    And teh day of judgement is coming, and it isn't going to be pretty. But as always someone else will bear the blame.

  • Ralf on July 18, 2011 11:10 AM:

    The same party that rejects evidence of global climate change and evolution will reject the evidence of political polling.

    These guys (and a few gals) are true believers. And lack any analytical skill whatsoever. Faith in g_d has gotten them this far, and they know, they just know that they will be rewarded.

    Their same lack of critical skills and their courage in the face of overwhelming evidence is why they think the economy won't blow up when they "stand their ground" and refuse to do the rational thing.

  • zeitgeist on July 18, 2011 11:19 AM:

    Ben @ 10:16 re Redistricting

    The Iowa model had gotten much praise, resulted in one of the first approved maps this cycle, does not take political considerations into account at all, has never been successfully challenged in court, and sets as its hightest priorities equal size and compactness of districts without regard to where incumbents are, who gets hurt, registration statistics, etc.


  • Bill Mitchell on July 18, 2011 11:19 AM:

    You forgot that the new bogus CBS Poll over-samples Democrats by 11 points although everyone knows party affiliation is now equal:


    I would be curious as to how many people would like THEIR OWN TAXES INCREASED as opposed to SOMEONE ELSE'S. Or how about this:

    "Would you support increasing taxes on those making over $200,000 a year if you knew it would increase unemployment?"

    "Would you support an increase in corporate taxes if you knew they would just pass the increase along to you in the form of higher prices?"

    Didn't see THOSE questions on the survey. Unless a question involved some personal pain for the respondent, their answer is meaningless class warfare.

  • sparky on July 18, 2011 11:40 AM:

    Bill Mitchell--
    To answer your question: As someone who makes less than $200,000 a year, yes I would support an increase in MY taxes if those making more than that amount paid the same percentage in federal taxes that I already pay. When SS and income taxes are added together I already pay a much higher percentage on my income in taxes than people with much higher incomes and don't even ask me to pity those poor corporations; many are already in the zero tax bracket. Do away with those special tax rates for capital gains and dividends and all those tax incentives (giveaways) for corporations and big ag and then ask me that question and my answer will be the same. YES, I'll pay more taxes to get MY country on the right track, but make the rich and uberrich pay a percentage equal to what I (and probably almost everyone else) am already paying. After all it's THEIR country too.

  • Bokonon on July 18, 2011 11:47 AM:

    Actually ... this survey is pretty darned depressing.

    I can't believe that the American people are apportioning blame and criticism anywhere close to equally.

    And once again ... the GOP's basic media-based strategy is affirmed. The GOP may be screw-ups and incompetents, and the Democrats may be acting as the adults in the room ... but the GOP's soundbites and the fudging and false equivalencies in the press coverage mean that EVERYONE is going to get blamed.

  • Josef K on July 18, 2011 11:56 AM:

    From Bill Mitchell at 11:19AM:

    Didn't see THOSE questions on the survey. Unless a question involved some personal pain for the respondent, their answer is meaningless class warfare.

    First, I would take anything coming from Rasmussen with a grain of salt (one the size of the Moon).

    Second, the phrasing of your two hypotheticals displays both presupposition and bias, which in turn would bias any answer to favor the negative. As such, they're useless in terms of informing policy.

    Third, like it or not 'class warfare' is very real in this country. I'm not sure if you were being dismissive or not, but its a reality and needs to be called so.

  • Steve M. on July 18, 2011 12:10 PM:

    The key here, I think, is: how many of the Republican poll respondents who disapprove of GOP members of Congress disapprove because they think those GOP members aren't extreme enough? That's what the teabag members are thinking. And I'm not sure they're crazy to think that -- staying intransigent at least fires up their base, while demoralizing everyone else (because everyone in the middle just winds up with no successful deal-making adults to root for and liberals wind up with no liberal victories).

  • ET on July 18, 2011 12:21 PM:

    Tea Party sympathizers in Congress only listen to Tea Partiers so they think that is "EVERYONE" and make judgements and mouth-off accordingly. The problem with listening to only those voices that agree with your worldview is that you ignore the signs that you are in trouble. Nothing that anyone says will make them see any differently.

  • Sophie in VA on July 18, 2011 12:30 PM:

    I didn't feel helpless when terrorists struck on 9/11. We're the United States.

    But I've felt helpless ever since: A flag-waving march into Iraq . . . run-away spending . . . We've all seen it. What's astonishing is that we could plummet so fast--and that Sanity is hostage to one-fifth of the population.

  • ameshall on July 18, 2011 1:52 PM:

    Yep. The GOP doesn't have to alter its behavior because their superPACs will convince the voters that it's the evil Democrats who collapsed the economy and drove up the deficit, and that all Democrats ever do when they are in power is raise taxes on working stiffs and let "illegals" and terrorists treat the United States like an amusement park. When you throw into the mix the new laws in GOP-controlled swing states curbing the rights of college students, the elderly, and the poor to vote, you've got the perfect recipe for GOP electoral success. And let's not forget the Democrats' own generous contributions to the GOP's political success: nonexistent messaging and political ineptitude. The GOP will find a way to spin this debt-ceiling fiasco into political gold by 2012--you can bank on it. For their part, the Democrats will try to convince millions of American voters struggling to stay afloat in a stagnant economy that they can "win the future." Pathetic.

  • cornhusker on July 18, 2011 3:24 PM:

    You showed polling on Obama, Dems and Republicans. What about Republican Tea Partiers? How do they fare in the polls?