Sunday, October 18, 2009

Two out of three Republicans are completely nuts

[Updated with more relevant picture]

That's the conclusion I draw from a focus-group study published last week. I think everybody knew these ideas were out there (in more than one sense), but I certainly had no idea that so many Republicans -- almost two-thirds -- believe this stuff.

First, for any Republicans who want to dismiss this information out of hand, here's your reason: the study was conducted by Democratic strategist James Carville's consulting company.

For everyone else, yes, that's a reason to take the information with a grain of salt. However, this study is meant to provide Democrats with an understanding of Republican voters, so it would not really be in their interest to just make stuff up.

With those caveats, here's some of what almost two-thirds of Republican voters (nearly one-fifth of the electorate) apparently believe.

First and foremost, these conservative Republican voters believe Obama is deliberately and ruthlessly advancing a "secret agenda" to bankrupt our country and dramatically expand government control over all aspects of our daily lives. They view this effort in sweeping terms, and cast a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of the United States as it was conceived by our founders and developed over the past 200 years.

This concern combines with a profound sense of collective identity. In our conversations, it was striking how these voters constantly characterized themselves as part of a group of individuals who share a set of beliefs, a unique knowledge, and a commitment of opposition to Obama that sets them apart from the majority of the country. They readily identify themselves as a minority in this country – a minority whose values are mocked and attacked by a liberal media and class of elites. They also believe they possess a level of knowledge and understanding when it comes to politics and current events, one gained from a rejection of the mainstream media and an embrace of conservative media and pundits such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, which sets them apart even more. Further, they believe this position leaves them with a responsibility to spread the word, to educate those who do not share their insights, and to take back the country that they love. Their faith in this country and its ideals leave them confident that their numbers will grow, and that they will ultimately defeat Barack Obama and the shadowy forces driving his hidden agenda.

They also feel contempt for the Republican Party itself.

And yet remarkably, these voters had virtually nothing positive to say about the Republican Party. They see their own party as weak, old, and out of touch. They feel it has lost sight of conservative values and conservative voters and is in desperate need of new leadership. They identified a clear disconnect between ‘the people’ and ‘the politicians,’ which poses a growing threat to the party’s ability to challenge Democratic control in Washington. While they continue to defend George W. Bush personally, his presidency is an embarrassment to them and represents the culmination of a creeping betrayal of conservative values that started with the election of his father more than 20 years ago. The lionization of Ronald Reagan in these groups was as strong as we have seen for any political figure, as was the desperate desire for a new Reaganesque figure to lead them out of their current wilderness.

It's important to note, however, that those are the views of conservative Republicans. Conservative and conservative-leaning independents don't share those views.

Looking at the current political debate, it was evident in our focus group discussions that the divide between conservative Republicans and even the most conservative-leaning independents remains very, very wide. Independents like those in our suburban Cleveland groups harbor doubts about Obama’s health care reform but are desperate to see some version of health care reform pass this year; the conservative Republicans view any health care reform as a victory for Obama and are militantly opposed. Asked about the issues of greatest importance to them in choosing a candidate for Congress, health care ranked sixth among the Republicans, below issues such as tax cuts, immigration, and a candidate’s personal values and faith; but for the independents, health care was number one.

The language they use further reflects this divide. Conservative Republicans fully embrace the "socialism" attacks on Obama and believe it is the best, most accurate way to describe him and his agenda. Independents largely dismiss these attacks as partisan rhetoric detracting from a legitimate debate about what many of them do see as excessive government control and spending.

Got that? Conservative Republicans think Obama is an evil socialist out to destroy the country.

There is no doubt in their minds that the ultimate goal of this strategy is to change our country to a socialist nation. In their minds, this is the key to truly understanding the Obama presidency and what is happening in our country today. Everything goes back to government control and Obama (aided by Democrats in Congress and the liberal media) seeking to systematically strip away individual rights and insert government into every aspect of our daily lives.

Conservative independents think he's a nice guy who's maybe moving too fast and spending too much.

By comparison, the independent voters expressed clear concerns about Obama - especially that he is doing "too much, too fast," that he is spending too much, that they do not understand his health care reforms, and that he does not have a clear plan for bringing jobs back to the US – some of which certainly touched on the conservative Republicans’ concerns. But they still fundamentally like and respect him on several levels and are very clearly rooting for him to succeed.
They see him as hard-working and committed to helping people, especially the "little people," and give him credit for tackling issues that were ignored for too long and for doing what he feels is best for the U.S. – a sharp contrast to the conservative Republicans who see him actively working against the interests of our country.

Really, you should read the whole thing to get a better sense of just how nutty these people's beliefs are.

I really don't know what to say about it. What does it mean for a country with a two-party system when one of the parties is full of crazy people, or to be kinder, people with crazy ideas?

It seems like this is very bad for the Republican Party -- it basically kills any chance of winning national elections. You might think I'd think that's a good thing, and of course in a sense I do, but not really. A sensible, pragmatic, sane (FFS) Republican Party is good for the country. But we don't seem to have one anymore.

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