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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Underneath the “Pragmatism” Spin

As most readers probably know, one of the most relentless narratives of the 2014 election cycle was the claim that the Republican Party had “moderated” itself after its Tea Party-influenced bout with government shutdowns and other tokens of extremism, and was now operating under a “pragmatic” party leadership determined to govern, not obstruct. Not missing a beat, GOP and MSM opinion-leaders have carried that narrative into post-election spin.
But you know who isn’t buying it? Rank-and-file Republicans, as reported in a new Pew survey that I talked about at Washington Monthly today:

[The] new numbers from Pew…asked self-identified Democrats and Republicans if they’d prefer that leaders work with the other side “even if it disappoints” some party members, or instead “stand up” to the other side, even if that means “less gets done in Washington:”

[O]nly about a third of Republicans and Republican leaners (32%) want to see the GOP leadership work with Obama if it disappoints some groups of Republican supporters. About twice as many (66%) say GOP leaders should stand up to Obama even if less gets done. This reflects a shift away from wanting to see their leadership work with Obama in the wake of his reelection two years ago, but is little different than opinions among Republicans after the party’s 2010 midterm victory.
In contrast, about half (52%) of Democrats and Democratic leaning independents say Obama should try as best he can to work with Republican leadership even if it results in some disappointment among Democrats, while 43% say he should stand up on issues important to Democrats at the risk of less productivity in Washington.

There’s more of the same flashing signals elsewhere in the survey:

By a 57% to 39% margin, more Republicans and Republican leaning independents say their party’s leadership should move in a more conservative, rather than more moderate, direction. These views are little changed over the last four years.
And, as in the past, Democrats are more likely to say their party leadership should move in a more moderate direction (52% say this) than a liberal direction (41%). Yet the share saying the party should move in a liberal direction is now higher than it was following the 2010 midterms (41% today, up from 34%).

So the party whose rank-and-file wants the most conservative Republican Party in history to become more conservative, and also wants the most obstructionist congressional cadre in history to obstruct more, is the support base for all those “pragmatists” heading to Washington who want us to believe they’re determined to “get things done” come hell or high water.

My guess is that all the “pragmatism” talk is just positioning in order to blame Obama and Democrats for the gridlock just ahead. Yeah, Republicans may be more “disciplined” than before, but only in the service of a conservative movement bent on turning back the clock as soon and as far as it can.

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