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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Among the Elephants: Rightward, Ho!

Daily Kos has just released a large Research 2000 poll it commissioned to test the views of just over 2000 self-identified Republicans. Here’s Markos’ analysis of the findings, and here are the crosstabs so you can slice and dice the results yourself.
Markos calls the poll’s results “startling,” but I guess that depends on your expectations. Seems to me that it confirms the strong rightward trend in the GOP that its leaders have been signaling now for the last two years. Some of this actually represents a long-term trend that ‘s been underway since the early 1960s; some of it involves the shrinkage of the Republican “base” to a seriously conservative core from the party’s identification peak around 2004; and some is attributable to a conscious or subconscious effort to absolve the party from the sins of the Bush administration by treating it as too “moderate.”
In any event, aside from a general and rigorous conservatism, the two findings that are probably most relevant to the immediate political future, and to the relationship between Republicans and independents, are the GOPers’ exceptionally hateful attitude towards Barack Obama, and their unregenerated cultural extremism. The first factor will complicate any efforts in 2010 to go after congressional Democrats as a bad influence on the well-meaning president (who remains more popular among voters outside the GOP than either party in Congress). And the second undermines the media narrative that today’s Republicans are semi-libertarians who have finally sloughed off all that crazy Christian Right stuff and are focused like a laser beam on the economy and fiscal issues.
How much do self-identified Republicans hate Barack Obama? Well, this is hardly news, but in the DK/R2K poll they favor Obama’s impeachment by a 39/32 margin (the rest are “not sure”). Only a narrow plurality (42/36) believes he was born in the United States. By a 63/21 margin, they believe he is a “socialist” (tell that to his progressive critics!). Only 24% say Obama “wants the terrorists to win,” but with 33% being “not sure” about it, only a minority (43%) seem convinced he’s not an actual traitor. Only 36% disagree with the proposition that Obama is a “racist who hates white people” (31% agree with the proposition, and the rest are not sure). And only 24% seem to be willing to concede he actually won the 2008 election (12% think “ACORN stole it,” and 55% aren’t sure either way).
On the cultural-issues front, self-identified Republicans are divided only between the very conservative and the very very conservative. The number that jumps off the page is that 31% want to outlaw contraceptives (56% are opposed). But that’s not too surprising since 34% believe “the birth control pill is abortion,” and 76% (with only 8% opposed) agree that “abortion is murder.”
But it’s the homophobia of GOPers that’s really striking, considering the steady national trend away from such a posture, particularly among younger voters. It extends beyond familiar controversial issues like gay marriage (opposed 77/7) and gays-in-the-military (opposed 55/26) to exceptionally unambiguous statements of equality like the ability of openly gay people to teach in public schools (opposed 73/8). This last finding really is amazing, since St. Ronald Reagan himself famously opposed a California ballot initiative banning gay and lesbian public school teachers, way back in 1978.
The crosstabs for the poll break down the results on regional lines, and there are some variations; most notably, southerners are marginally more conservative on most questions, and really stand out in their incredible levels of support for their own state’s secession from the United States (fully 33% favor a return to 1861, as opposed to only 10% in the northeast). But by and large, the regional splits aren’t that massive; the old idea of the GOP as a coalition of conservatives based in the south and west and moderates in the midwest and northeast is totally obsolete.
The poll finds no real front-runner for the 2012 presidential nomination. Given eight options (about the only plausible candidate not mentioned is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels), Sarah Palin tops the list at 16%, with Romney at 11%, Dick Cheney (!) at 10%, and everyone else in single digits. Fully 42% are undecided. Given the overall results of the poll, that almost certainly means the 2012 nomination process will exert a powerful pull to the right for all the candidates. I mean, really, in a scattered field, is it at all unlikely that someone will focus on that one-third of southern Republicans pining for secession and start channeling John C. Calhoun before the early South Carolina primary? Or might not a candidate seeking traction in the Iowa Caucuses, a low-turnout affair typically dominated by Right-to-Life activists, maybe call for banning those “murderous” birth control pills?
We’ll know soon enough how crazy the GOP crazy-train will get in 2012, I suppose. But it’s a lead-pipe certainty that the dominant right wing of the Republican Party won’t find any reason to moderate itself if the GOP makes serious gains in November.

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