Trying to Understand

In a recent post, I noted that Greenberg, Quinlan Rosner–the well known polling and survey research outfit–has issued a report titled “Inside the GOP,” detailing conclusions from a variety of focus groups conducted with the Tea Party, Evangelical and Moderate factions of today’s Republican Party.

Some of those conclusions simply confirm the hunches of political nerds like me, who obsessively follow politics and government. For example, the report notes that “the base thinks they are losing politically and losing control of the country–and their starting reaction is ‘worried’ ‘discouraged’ ‘scared’ and ‘concerned’ about the direction of the country and their powerlessness to change course.”

We sort of figured that.

Despite the disproportionate media attention generated by the Tea Party faction, Evangelicals continue to make up the largest bloc in the GOP base, and they focus far more on issues like same-sex marriage and abortion than either of the other factions. Evangelicals characterize the President as a socialist, as ‘worst President in history’ and as ‘anti-American.’ These accusations are echoed by the Tea Party faction. (For those of us who do not fall into these categories, these extravagant and overwrought accusations have a “never-neverland” quality to them–they make you want to scream things like “Do you even know what a socialist is?” and “Where were you when George W. Bush was President?)

The research paints a picture of dispirited moderates who wonder where their party went; however, it also notes that moderates are a rapidly diminishing presence in the party. They are “very conscious of being illegitimate within their own party.”

The report also acknowledges the Elephant in the Room (no pun intended).

The GOP base is “very conscious of being white in a country with growing minorities.” As they see it, “Their party is losing to a Democratic Party of big government whose goal is to expand programs that mainly benefit minorities.” As the report delicately notes, “Race remains very much alive in the politics of the Republican Party.”

There is a good deal more, and the entire report is worth reading. For those of us who wonder why the GOP has expended so much energy and vitriol trying to prevent working-class Americans from accessing basic healthcare, the answer is that  they are panicked by their conviction that “Obamacare” is the “end game”– a program which will cement voter loyalties to the Democrats.

The next explosive–and divisive– issue, according to the report, will be climate change. “Climate skeptics are a majority in the conservative factions.”

All in all, the report paints a picture of a party that has been captured by what used to be considered the fringe–or, more accurately, the fringes. And while those fringes overlap somewhat, there are major differences that do not bode well for what used to be a Grand Old Party.

I’ve been predicting a schism for nearly twenty years, so obviously I’m not a reliable soothsayer….but the divisions–both within the party and from the American mainstream–are getting pretty deep.