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AngerCanBePower

ByThomasB.Edsall

October8,201311:20pm

TomEdsallonpoliticsinsideandoutsideofWashington.

Theseareextraordinarytimes.Thedepthandstrengthofvotersconvictionthat
theiropponentsaredeterminedtodestroytheirwayoflifehasrarelybeenmatched,
perhapsonlybythemoodoftheSouthintheyearsleadinguptotheCivilWar.
InarecentcolumnforBloombergView,myfriendFrankWilkinsonput
togetheraconciseexplanation:
AlotofAmericanswerenotreadyforamixedracepresident.They
werentreadyforgaymarriage.Theywerentreadyforthewaveoflegaland
illegalimmigrationthatredefinedAmericandemographicsoverthepasttwo
orthreedecades,bringinginlotsofnonwhites.Theywerentreadywho
was?forthebrutaleffectsofglobalizationonworkingandmiddleclass
Americansorthedevastatingfalloutfromthefinancialcrisis.
TheirrepresentativesdidntstopObamacare.Andtheirsidedidnttake
backAmericain2012asFoxNewsandconservativeradiopersonalitiesled
themtobelievetheywould.Theyfeelthecultureisrunningawayfromthem
(andtheyremostlyright).Theylackthepowertocontroltheirown
government.Buttheystillhavejustenoughtoshutitdown.

Animositytowardthefederalgovernmenthasbeenintensifyingatastunningrate.
InasurveyreleasedonSept.23,GallupfoundthatthepercentageofRepublicans
sayingthefederalgovernmenthastoomuchpower81percenthadreacheda
recordsettinglevel.
ThemovementtotherightonthepartoftheRepublicanelectoratecanbeseen
inGallupsurveyscalculatingthatthepercentageofRepublicanswhoidentify
themselvesasconservativegrewbetween2002and2010by10percentagepoints,
from62to72percent.Duringthesameperiod,thepercentageofRepublicanswho
identifythemselvesasmoderatesfellfrom31to23percent.
Thesetrendsdatebacktothe1970s.SurveysconductedbyAmericanNational
ElectionStudiesfoundthatthepercentageofselfdescribedconservative
Republicansrosefrom42in1972to65percentin2008,whilethepercentageof
moderateRepublicansfellfrom26to16percent.LiberalRepublicansremember
them?fellfrom10to4percent.
TakethefindingsofaPewResearchCentersurveyreleasedfourweeksago.
TheyshowthatdiscontentwithRepublicanHouseandSenateleadersrunsdeep
amongRepublicanprimaryvoters:twothirdsofthemdisapproveoftheirpartys
CongressionalleadershipJohnBoehner,thespeakeroftheHouse,andMitch
McConnell,theSenateminorityleader.
Sometimesyouhavetoturntotheknowyourenemypeopletounderstand
whatsgoingon.TheDemocraticpollsterStanGreenbergofGreenbergQuinlan
RosnerisoneofthekeenestobserversofthecontemporaryRepublicanelectorate.
HeisconductinganongoingstudycalledtheTheRepublicanPartyProjectforthe
liberalnonprofitorganizationDemocracyCorps.Greenbergspremiseisthatyou
cannotunderstandthegovernmentshutdownunlessyouunderstandtheG.O.P.
fromtheinside.
GreenbergputsRepublicansintothreecategories(Figure1):evangelicaland
religiouslyobservantvoters(47percent)libertarianleaningTeaPartysupporters
(22percent)andmoderates(25percent).

LastweekGreenbergreleasedtheresultsofsixfocusgroupsconductedwith
evangelicalandotherreligiouslyobservantRepublicans(inRoanoke,Va.,and
ColoradoSprings,Colo.),TeaPartysupporterswhoarenotevangelicals(Raleigh,
N.C.,andRoanoke),andmoderateRepublicans(RaleighandColoradoSprings).
OneofthekeyfactorspushingRepublicanstoextremes,accordingto
Greenbergsreport,istheintensityofanimositytowardObama.Thisanimosity
amongparticipantsinallsixfocusgroupsisreflectedinFigure2,whichrepresentsa
wordcloudoffocusgroupreferencestothepresident,withthesizeofeachwordin
thecloudproportionaltothefrequencywithwhichitwasused.
InthesixfocusgroupsofRepublicanvoters,accordingtoGreenbergsreport,
fewexplicitlytalkaboutObamainracialterms,but
thebasesupportersareveryconsciousofbeingwhiteinacountrywith
growingminorities.TheirpartyislosingtoaDemocraticPartyofbig
governmentwhosegoalistoexpandprogramsthatmainlybenefit
minorities.RaceremainsverymuchaliveinthepoliticsoftheRepublican
Party.
Voterslikethis,accordingtothereport,areconvincedthattheyhavelostthe
largerbattle:
Whilemanyvoters,includingplentyofDemocrats,questionwhether
Obamaissucceedingandgettinghisagendadone,Republicansthinkhehas
won.Thecountryasawholemaythinkgridlockhastriumphed,particularly
inthemidstofaRepublicanledgovernmentshutdown,butRepublicanssee
apresidentwhohasfooledandmanipulatedthepublic,lied,andgottenhis
secretsocialistMarxistagendadone.Republicansandtheirkindof
Americansarelosing.
InhisreportfortheDemocracyCorps,GreenbergdescribestheRepublican
baseelectorateasfearfulofbeingstrategicallyoutmaneuvered:

TheythinktheyfaceavictoriousDemocraticPartythatisintenton
expandinggovernmenttoincreasedependencyandthereforeelectoral
support.Itstartswithfoodstampsandunemploymentbenefitsexpands
furtherifyoulegalizetheillegalsbutinsuringtheuninsureddramatically
growsthosedependentongovernment.Theybelievethisisanelectoral
strategynotjustapoliticalideologyoreconomicphilosophy.If
Obamacarehappens,theRepublicanPartymaybelost,intheirview.
ConservativetroopsblamemoderateRepublicanforwhattheyseeas
Democraticvictories.TheRepublicanbase
thinkstheyarelosingpoliticallyandlosingcontrolofthecountryand
theirstartingreactionisworried,discouraged,scared,and
concernedaboutthedirectionofthecountryandalittlepowerlessto
changecourse.TheythinkObamahasimposedhisagenda,while
RepublicansinD.C.lethimgetawaywithit.
Figure3representsasecondwordcloudgeneratedbyGreenbergsdatashowing
whichwordscameupmostofteninallsixfocusgroups:
Greenbergsstudyfoundthatintheviewofmany,ifnotmost,Republicans
theDemocraticPartyexiststocreateprogramsanddependencythe
foodstamphammock,entitlements,the47percent.Andonthehorizon
comprehensiveimmigrationreformandObamacare.Citizenshipfor12
millionillegalsandtensofmilliongettingfreehealthcareistheendofthe
road.
Thesevotersthinktheyarelosingthecountry,GreenbergsaidduringanOct.
3conferencecallwithreporters.
AmongGreenbergsotherfindingsfromhisfocusgroups:

Theparticipantsareveryconsciousofbeingwhiteinacountrythatis
increasinglyminority.
RepublicanvotersarethreatenedbyObamaandtheDemocraticParty,butthey
areangryattheirownpartyleaders.TheprobleminD.C.isnotgridlockObama
haswontheproblemisRepublicansfailingtostophim.
Together,evangelicalsandTeaPartysupporterscomprisemorethanhalfthe
party.Moderates,aboutaquarterofRepublicans,areveryconsciousofbeing
illegitimatewithintheirownparty.

TheevangelicalandTeaPartywingsoftheRepublicanPartycombineintoa
clearmajorityofRepublicanvoters,andaccordingtoGreenberg,theyhavea
mutuallyreinforcingrelationship:
SocialissuesarecentralforEvangelicalsandtheyfeeladeepsenseof
culturalandpoliticalloss.Theybelievetheirtowns,communities,and
schoolsaresufferingfromadeepculturerotthathasinvadedfromthe
outside.Thecentralfocushereishomosexuality,butalsothedeclineof
homogenoussmalltowns.TheyliketheTeaPartybecausetheystandupto
theDemocrats.
TeaPartysupporters,accordingtoGreenbergsresearch,haveamore
libertarianedge,buttheirworldviewiscompatiblewiththeevangelicalagenda:
Biggovernment,Obama,thelossofliberty,anddeclineofresponsibility
arecentraltotheTeaPartyworldview.ObamasAmericaisanunmitigated
evilbasedonbiggovernment,regulations,anddependency.Theyarenot
focusedonsocialissuesatall.TheyliketheTeaPartybecauseitisgetting
backtobasicsandbelieveithasthepotentialtoreshapetheG.O.P.
JohnBoehnerisjustthekindofRepublicanleaderthehardrightdislikesa
dealmaker,acompromiser.TheRepublicanprimaryelectorate,withitsholdona
solidblockofRepublicanrepresentativesanditsabilitytorecruitandpromote

challengers,nowhasBoehnertrapped.Personallyinclinedtofindhiswayoutofthe
facetofaceconfrontationheis,afterall,acareerpoliticianloathtoshutdownthe
governmentBoehnerhasbeenforcedintoaconfrontation,withlessandlessroom
fornegotiationwithhisownpartyswarringflanksandwithDemocrats.
TwodaysafterObamasreelection,whenRepublicanslosteightseatsbut
retainedtheirHousemajority(232to200,withthreevacancies),Boehnerwasasked
byDianeSawyeronABC,Youhavesaidnextyearthatyouwouldrepealthehealth
carevote.Thatsstillyourmission?Boehnerreplied:Well,Ithinktheelection
changesthat.Itsprettyclearthatthepresidentwasreelected,Obamacareisthelaw
oftheland.
Thatsameday,MichaelOBrienofNBCNewssuggestedthat
Thespeakerspronouncement,ifnothingelse,signifiesapivotaway
fromRepublicanseffortstoshowcaseforconservativestheirdoggednessin
lookingtorepealObamacare.
Nearlyayearlater,onOct.6,Boehneradmittedthathehadbeenforcedto
capitulatebyconstituentpressuresonRepublicanmembersoftheHouse.Appearing
againonABC,thistimewithGeorgeStephanopoulos,Boehnersaid,Iandmy
membersdecidedthethreatofObamacareandwhatwashappeningwasso
importantthatitwastimeforustotakeastand.
Stephanopoulosasked,Didyoudecideitorwasitdecidedforyou?Boehners
answer:
I,workingwithmymembers,decidedtodothisinaunifiedway.
George,Ihave233RepublicansintheHouse.Andyouveneverseenamore
dedicatedgroupofpeoplewhoarethoroughlyconcernedaboutthefutureof
ourcountry.TheybelievethatObamacare,alltheseregulationscomingout
oftheadministration,arethreateningthefutureforourkidsandour
grandkids.Itistimeforustostandandfight.

Adeterminedminoritycandoalotinoursystem.Ithasalreadywonthebattle
fortheheartsandmindsoftheRepublicanHousecaucus.Thatisnotamodest
victory.
AsofOctober2013,TomEdsallscolumncanbefoundinanewlocationinthe
Opinionsection

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