Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Scientific Evidence that the Republican Base Is Crazy

Some weeks ago I argued that the vituperative criticism of Obama from the right was not, as some suggested, driven by racism but was the result of the right wing being nuts. Not nuts in the sense that they disagree with me, but nuts in that they increasingly subscribe to paranoid fantasies untethered to the real world as anyone else perceives it.

During my long illness I got an email from Democracy Corps, the polling firm co-owned by James Carville, linking to a report that reaches the same conclusion based on at least semi-scientific investigation. They ran focus groups of older white non-college educated conservative Republicans in Georgia, asking about Obama, health care, the economy and other basic issues. And as a control they ran similar focus groups with independents with similar demographics in suburban Cleveland. This second group they identify as the most conservative swing voter bloc.

The first finding they emphasize is that the participants persuaded them that race is not the basis for their nearly universal loathing of Obama. You can question this study based on the bias of the investigators, but this is a hard conclusion to dispute. After all, the easy and advantageous (for Dems) conclusion would be that anti-Obama conservatives are just a bunch of unreconstructed bigots. That they find the opposite certainly is a credible finding and gives extra credence to the project generally.

The more significant finding is that the ultraconservative Republicans live in a different world from the rest of us -- even from the conservative independents from Cleveland:

    The self-identifying conservative Republicans who make up the base of the Republican Party stand a world apart from the rest of America, according to focus groups conducted by Democracy Corps. These base Republican voters dislike Barack Obama to be sure – which is not very surprising as base Democrats had few positive things to say about George Bush – but these voters identify themselves as part of a ‘mocked’ minority with a set of shared beliefs and knowledge, and commitment to oppose Obama that sets them apart from the majority in the country. They believe Obama is ruthlessly advancing a ‘secret agenda’ to bankrupt the United States and dramatically expand government control to an extent nothing short of socialism. While these voters are disdainful of a Republican Party they view to have failed in its mission, they overwhelmingly view a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of this country’s founding principles and are committed to seeing the president fail.
From there the specifics get positively surreal. Obama is controlled by some real power -- most likely George Soros. They want to kill Glenn Beck. Their ultimate goal is the end of civil liberties.

My personal favorite -- because it's so counterfactual -- that Obama started the road to socialism by bailing out the banks. Yes Obama is so diabolical that he orchestrated the bank bailout before he even took office!. Scary.

As I said in my previous post, it's a manifestly bad thing that some twenty percent of the electorate is bonkers. Additionally, I think its incumbent on us non-crazy, reality-based folk to continually point this out.

The media coverage of the ravings from the right repeatedly falls into the false equivalency trap -- let's find someone nutty on the left for balance. (The occasional blogger will fall into this as well.) But the nutty left doesn't affect the course of the Democratic party. Hell, we're lucky if they vote.

The hardcore right described in the report comprise the grassroots foot soldiers of the Republican party. They are the ones who do things like run party moderate out of elections -- and the party. As such, the crazies in the Republican party have real influence on one of the only two real parties in our democracy.


Madrigal Maniac said...

Thanks for the excellent post. I'm going to head over to Democracy Corp to read the report and whatever else is there. I've never been to the site.

I was interested in the phrase "but these voters identify themselves as part of a ‘mocked’ minority."

I wondered, do progressive's actually mock these people, or is it fear based on their own ignorance.

As a progressive, I must admit there are times I watch Countdown and think, ugh, was that really necessary? Still, I do believe there is a group of non-educated conservatives who hold simply irrational beliefs about the world and further divide America.

The question is what do we do? I agree with your idea that we need to stand up to the crazies. However, I also think we need to reach out to moderate conservatives. Recently, I have started to post some comments on right wing blogs.

Presumably, since they blog and are from Ohio, they do not fit the Georgia white non-college educated conservative Republican class.

I have been heartened by the fact that there are those on the conservative side who enjoy in spirited and respectful debate. Most of the time we do not agree, but sometimes we do. My suspicion is that some may not be enamored with the right wing crazies who hold their party hostage.

Still, I believe that confronting racist and irrational beliefs is important to keeping the public debate fair and rational. I also believe that constructive debate with those we oppose, but think rationally, is important as well.

P.S. I have not read the report yet, but I'm guessing somewhere in the limitations section the words "not" and "generalizable" will appear :-)

Tom Degan said...

A party by any other name would whither and die....

And speaking of names, folks: why don't they just rename themselves the "Tea Party" and be done with it. This is certainly not the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

Is it the goal of these clowns that they destroy the GOP in order that it may be rebuilt in their hideous image? If that is the case they're in for more-than-a-few surprises. That silly party is already "in their image". Are they serious when they imply that they wish to move it even further to the right? How "far right" can one move before one falls off of the face of the earth? Are they serious?

Watching the utter implosion of the Grand Old Party in the last year has been the gift that just keeps giving and giving. Someone pinch me!


Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

LisaRenee said...

That's one difference between us I guess Pho, I acknowledge the fact that there are those within my own party who do not act as they should when it comes to respect or civility. It's impossible for me to pretend that one party is the true "evil" when the truth is, evil and hatred happen from those of both parties.

Which is why unlike some of the other blogs that focused on the hate in the comments, I opted for transparency in including some from both...If we are to truly "stand up to the crazies" than it should be all of them, with the most "standing up" happening when it is those within our own party, we could lead by example rather than by justification.

I've seen and experienced hatred from both sides, in the end? It's hate no matter how you slice it and it's wrong.