Political Animal


October 25, 2011 2:15 PM If only GOP lawmakers were more like GOP voters

By Steve Benen

I imagine everyone has seen the bumper sticker that says, “Lord, protect us from your followers.” I have an idea for a related sticker that reads, “Republicans, protect us from your elected officials.”

In the existing political landscape, the real problem is not with GOP voters; it’s with GOP policymakers. This isn’t to let the party’s supporters off the hook entirely — they’re the ones who supported and elected the officeholders — but it’s hard to overstate how much more constructive the political process would be if Republican lawmakers in any way reflected the priorities of their own supporters.

Last week, a national poll found that Republican voters broadly support the Democratic jobs agenda — a payroll tax cut, jobs for teachers/first responders, infrastructure investments, and increased taxes on millionaires and billionaires — in some cases by wide margins. This week, Tim Noah noticed this observation can be applied even further.

I’m liking rank-and-file Republicans better and better. Earlier this month we learned that they favor Obama’s plan to tax the rich. Now we learn that a 55 percent majority of them think Wall Street bankers and brokers are “dishonest,” 69 percent think they’re “overpaid,” and 72 percent think they’re “greedy.” Fewer than half (47 percent) have an unfavorable view of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Thirty-three percent either favor them or have no opinion, and 20 percent haven’t heard of them. Also, a majority favor getting rid of the Electoral College and replacing it with a popular vote. After the 2000 election only 41 percent did. Now 53 percent do. How cool is that?

Every one of these positions puts the GOP rank-and-file at odds with their congressional leadership and field of presidential candidates.

I don’t want to exaggerate this too much. The fact remains that the Republican Party is dominated by conservative voters, especially those who participate in primaries and caucuses. I’m not suggesting for a moment that the party’s rank-and-file members are moving to the left.

But the recent poll results are also hard to miss — many if not most GOP voters are perfectly comfortable with plenty of progressive ideas, including tax increases on millionaires and billionaires. It’s starting to look like the party’s rank and file is made up of mainstream conservatives who want their party to help move the country forward.

And yet, when we look to Republican officials in Washington, how many GOP members of Congress are willing to endorse any of these popular measures? Zero. Literally, not even one Republican lawmaker has offered even tacit support for ideas that most GOP voters actually like. In the Senate, a united Republican caucus won’t even allow a vote — won’t even allow a debate — on popular job-creation ideas during a jobs crisis.

If the actions of GOP lawmakers in any way resembled the wishes of GOP voters, our political system wouldn’t be nearly as dysfunctional as it is now.

Congratulations, congressional Republicans. You’re far more extreme than your own supporters.

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.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on October 25, 2011 2:22 PM:

    In their hearts, Conservative politicians know that they're right.

    Extremely right.

    And if they're firm, the ignorati morons who are their constituency, will follow!


  • stormskies on October 25, 2011 2:25 PM:

    Congratulations, congressional Republicans. You’re far more extreme than your own supporters.


    Which only proves that these Repiglican politicians do not represent the people who elected them. These fascist pigs represent the Corporations and the oligarchy that gave them all the money they needed to get elected by those who voted for them. There are nothing more than fascist pigs=puppets whose strings are of course pulled by the Corporations, Wall Street, and the oligarchy. Nothing more than little monkey's with their little hats on who are tethered to the Corporate organ player who makes them dance to their tunes. In essence, they have made their Faustian deal in order to be in the positions of power and prestige that they have. Thus, they have sold their souls and in their place now stands nothing but a rancid abscess.

  • ameshall on October 25, 2011 2:39 PM:

    Don't jump the gun here, Steve. What GOP lawmakers and most Republican voters share is an anti-government worldview and a seething hatred of the Democratic party. Fox and the GOP spend plenty of money reinforcing the fiction that Democrats extract tax dollars from hardworking white folks and redistribute them to shiftless minorities and "illegals." The fact that Republicans in these polls may support so-called Democratic ideas or see Wall Streeters as greedy doesn't translate to actual support for Democratic proposals. Anything that has the stink of Obama or the Democratic party on it will not earn the support of rank-and-file Republicans. To them, Democrats are evil. That's the glue that keeps the GOP together.

  • Peter C on October 25, 2011 2:47 PM:

    They count the votes; they don't need supporters. All they need is a plausible story about why they won.

  • Bartender on October 25, 2011 2:49 PM:

    Well, I guess two can host this Congressional voting block party. Should the Republicans retake the White House next year, the first declaration from Pelosi should be "Our goal is to insure this is a one term president". I wonder what the Republican/FOX News response would be?

  • SYSPROG on October 25, 2011 2:51 PM:

    THANK YOU ameshall...you are exactly correct (didn't want to say 'right'). The problem is not the ideas. The problem is the party hatred. IF you vote for a good idea AND it's precieved as DEMOCRAT you are a traitor. The really amazing thing is many of these ideas came from the GOP before they sunk into Moronville. In the actual parties the problem is that the Dems are still fighting for the 'good ideas' and the GOP is fighting for power. It's the people that suffer.

  • Frank Wilhoit on October 25, 2011 2:54 PM:

    "...anti-government worldview..." Nobody hates government for any other reason than criminals hate police.

  • bdop4 on October 25, 2011 2:55 PM:

    These "reasonable" republicans need to pick up the phone and direct some well-deserved heat to their elected representatives.

    Unfortunately, most conservatives are authoritarian sheeple who feel more comfortable being told what to do.

  • Ryan Biggs on October 25, 2011 2:58 PM:

    Nothing new here. This is why the GOP clings to polarizing issues like abortion, religion, and gay marriage. They've figured out that a majority of people will happily vote against their own self interest in order to advance their position on these hotbed social issues.

    It's also the reason why the GOP needs to work so hard to control the news media and distort the message. Reality tends to have a liberal bias.

  • Memekiller on October 25, 2011 3:05 PM:

    It's been pretty clear for some time that voters have no sway because politicians believe that with money, they can game the system enough to make few races competitive, and in those, no matter what the voters believe can be altered with enough television advertising to muddy the issue or assassinat someone's character. They're usually right.

  • Anonymous on October 25, 2011 3:29 PM:

    "...anti-government worldview..." Nobody hates government for any other reason than criminals hate police.

    The problem lies in the definition of criminal. What you consider criminal is not what I consider criminal. When we add up all the quirks that 500 million people think should be criminal, and you impose those rules as law on everyone, you have a country full of people that can't legally breath.

    This was an issue all the way back to Jesus' day when the people were overburdened by Hebrew law. We are at that point. The role of the government is to preserve freedom and empower people to do more with their lives. The only time it is appropriate for government to restrict behavior is when that behavior is taking away from another person's empowerment.

    Agreed, most conservatives are really statists who want to lay down the law and control other people's lives. But there are some, like Ron Paul, who want to empower individuals to live freely and independently.

    Any able bodied/minded person will have incredible potential for success if they don't have the government keeping them down. Ron Paul will take away those restrictions to personal success before he tries to take away the safety nets. Once the restrictions are gone, there will be plenty enough prosperity among the people for us to take care of the weak.

  • Anonymous on October 25, 2011 3:44 PM:

    On taxing the rich vs. cutting spending: The revenue generated by higher taxes pails compared to the amount of money that the Federal govt. feeds to big corporations. Take military spending for example, billions of dollars go to finance start-up companies that are shell games to feed money back to ex-staffers of congressmen. http://www.rollcall.com/issues/57_47/FBI-Saw-Dark-Side-of-Rep-John-Murtha-209736-1.html

    Another example: Yes, we need affordable health care for all of our citizens, but do insurance companies set broken legs? Then why is the health care reform bill designed to funnel billions of dollars straight out of our pockets and into the pockets of insurance companies?

    Need I mention TARP, and all the less obvious bailouts, the FED lending money at 0% and the Treasury borrowing it back from Bank of America at 3%? THE GOVERNMENT IS IN BED WITH MEGA CORPORATIONS AT EVERY LEVEL.

    Democrat or Republican, it doesn't matter; most all are crooks. We need someone who will offer real change. We need someone who will empower the people. Let's do away with the IRS and empower the people immediately; cutting all "corporate" welfare would more than account for any loss of revenue.

  • pyewacket on October 25, 2011 4:20 PM:

    It's worth remembering that the poll looked at registered voters. The general public skews more liberal than registered voters. Registered voters skew more liberal than likely voters. Primary voters in Republican primaries are the most conservative of all. And they are the folks driving the choice of candidates, as well as much of the agenda at this time.

  • Trollop on October 25, 2011 4:30 PM:

    Anyone who is priming the Presidential pump is a criminal in waiting. I am not enamored with any of them but apparently Ron Paul "cares" about "liberty and freedom"! [cough-cough, cough..]

    The tree of liberty needs some Viagra, at least according to Pfizer..

  • Doug on October 25, 2011 9:17 PM:

    The Republican "tribal" thing, even allied to the often-mentioned but never documented, "hatred of Democrats" only really applies to the "base" of the Republican Party, which is itself about 30-35% of the voting age population. In other words, that description applies to about 10% of the total voting age population.
    It'll be interesting to see how many of those "Republicans" that support the current Democratic policies will vote next year - and for whom. Will those Democratic-policy approving Republicans support Perry if he's the nominee? Will the Republican "base" support Romney if HE'S the nominee? Will Grandma Plotz smell the leaking gas before...sorry, got carried away.
    If President Obama is currently suffering from an "enthusiasm gap", what words are we going to use to describe the Republicans' dilemma in 2012?
    Other than "Bwahahahaha!", that is...

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 25, 2011 9:40 PM:

    And yet Democrats continue to lose the messaging war. How is that possible? Answer: Democrats are fucking hopelessly incompetent. Think about it.