GOP Bigwigs’ Policies Are Polarizing Their Own Party
A new Wall Street Journal poll might serve as a wake-up call to the GOP’s top leadership that some of its stances are not only polarizing America but splintering the party itself — not a good sign for a party whose President is serving out his second term:
Almost three months into President Bush’s second term, a raft of economic and social issues — Social Security, immigration, gay marriage and the recent national debate over Terri Schiavo — is splintering the Republican base.
After winning re-election on the strength of support from nine in 10 Republican voters, the president is seeing significant chunks of that base balk at major initiatives, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows. One-third of Republicans say Democrats in Congress should prevent Mr. Bush and party leaders from “going too far in pushing their agenda,” and 41% oppose eliminating filibusters against Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees — the “nuclear option” that Senate Republican leaders are considering.
In other words: if the “nuclear option” passes there are going to be some angry voters…some of whom will be Republicans. More:
The Schiavo case has opened another rift. Though Mr. Bush and Republican congressional leaders acted to maximize the opportunity for reinserting Ms. Schiavo’s feeding tube, 39% of Republicans said removing the tube was “the right thing to do,” while 48% said it was wrong. About 18% of Republicans say they lost respect for Mr. Bush on the issue and 41% lost respect for Congress. The survey of 1,002 adults, conducted March 31-April 3, has a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points in either direction; the error margin for Republicans alone is 5.2 percentage points.
“It’s a story that splits our party,” says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts the Journal/NBC survey with his Democratic counterpart Peter Hart. A similar split on Social Security, he adds, will make it “hard, but not impossible” for Mr. Bush to accomplish the centerpiece of his second-term agenda.
Here’s the danger for the GOP bigwigs:
- No political party can keep its grip on power in the White House, let along Congress, if it only has the backing of part of its base.
- The modern Republican party has assumed power not just due to the dumb political mistakes, scandals, and overreaching of the Democrats in power, but because over the years a solid working-coalition was put in place. This allowed the GOP to pick up some centrists and alienated Democrats who felt the party was safer.
- If it continues to put its priority on advancing the agenda of its social conservative wing it could lose some of the libertarians who are more enamored with Barry Goldwater’s philsophy than Randall Terry’s.
- Centrists and disaffected Democrats may not make up the bulk of the GOP’s voters, but they’re more inclined to go along with Republican libertarians than social conservatives.
On the other hand, the Journal poll shows that Bush himself remains highly popular:
The latest poll shows that Mr. Bush retains huge Republican support in general. His overall approval rating remains at the middling lvels he has registered for more than a year, slipping slightly to 48% from 50% in February. But fully 87% of Republicans approve of his job performance, and 88% express positive views about him personally.
Different elements of the party, however, are balking at specific items on the president’s agenda. On his centerpiece initiative of Social Security, for instance, 32% of Republicans call it “a bad idea” to let workers invest payroll taxes in the stock markets.
On judicial nominations — a cause of contention between the White House and Democratic leaders — resistance among rank-and-file Republicans is even higher. Four in 10 say the option of filibusters should be preserved.
On Mr. Bush’s proposal to grant legal status to some illegal immigrants already in the U.S., Republicans are opposed by 50%-48% — almost matching the 54%-42% opposition among Democrats. About 55% of independents oppose Mr. Bush’s plan, while 38% favor it.
This is a HIGHLY emotional issue that almost triggers single-issue voting. Plus:
Nearly two-thirds of Republicans say Congress shouldn’t pass legislation affecting families in cases such as Ms. Schiavo’s, though some Republicans on Capitol Hill aim to do just that. By 50%-37%, Republicans say the federal government should be “less active” on social and moral issues; on gay marriage Republicans split evenly, with 48% saying Congress should pass legislation and 47% saying it shouldn’t.
This poll has more warning signs than a highway that’s being repaired…