The Republican Party’s approval rating is now lower in the Pew poll than at any time since 1992.
It’s lower now than it was during the government shutdowns in 2013 and the mid 1990s — lower than the absolute nadir of George W. Bush’s presidency when we were actively losing two wars as the global economy teetered on the edge of existence.
Why is the GOP so unpopular now?
The current survey finds that positive views of the GOP among Republicans have declined 18 percentage points since January, from 86% to 68%. Independents also view the Republican Party less favorably; 29% today, compared with 37% six months ago.
Conservatives are angry because their party isn’t being conservative enough and independents are alienated from a party that seems revanchist enough to nominate a cartoon billionaire just because he can afford to smear millions of immigrants. A majority of Americans see Republicans as more extreme while a majority sees Democrats as “more concerned about people like me.”
Instead of moderating, Republicans want to keep pressing to the right on three key issues:
1. Health care.
Republicans in the Senate are planning on voting to repeal Obamacare again Sunday, as a concession to the majority’s conservatives. Their intractability on this issue along with Obamacare’s continued success is being noticed by the public.
Democrats need to seize a new report from Medicare trustees that shows Obamacare has helped strengthen Medicare, stunningly. We know Medicare is the second most popular thing the government does behind Social Security. Democrats should make the case that Obamacare repeal votes aren’t just votes to take health insurance from 16 million, they’re votes to threaten Medicare coverage for millions of seniors.
Jeb Bush confirmed that he would like to phase out traditional Medicare this week, even though he’s playing word games to deny it now.
The Republican urge to destroy traditional Medicare rather than building on the current reforms by saving $16 billion a year by negotiating with drug companies is a huge weakness for the party. But conservatives still take it as an article of faith that Medicare and Social Security need to be gutted. That’s how Mitt Romney was tricked into putting Paul Ryan on the ticket. And that’s why Jeb is occasionally flashing his willingness to shrink the guarantees we make to seniors — even though Ryan’s Medicare voucher plan is opposed by 64% OF REPUBLICANS.
If Democrats can just break even with seniors in 2016, Republicans will be routed. The party’s revanchist take on health care is how that could happen.
2. Planned Parenthood.
A new poll finds the ginned-up right wing smear job on Planned Parenthood has had no effect in making the organization less popular.
Still Republicans are steaming toward legislation that would cut off funding that provides millions of women with cervical cancer screenings and contraception, which is a great idea if your goal is to lead to more unintended pregnancies that will result in more abortions.
The GOP platform would deny reproductive choices even in the aftermath of rape. Republicans were wise enough to sidestep that issue in 2014 by focusing on making birth control available over the counter. But conservatives don’t want strategy anymore, they want scalps — even if those scalps would damage their already miserable performance with single women.
Donald Trump has done one good thing with his life. He’s exposed that Republicans have no plan for dealing with the some 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, and conservatives are just fine with that.
Every Republican candidate — including Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, the two who best understand that their party needs a “miracle” with minorities to win in 2016 — has been saying, “Secure the border first.” Trump is saying, “Secure the border first and who really cares what happens after that.” And he now is doubling Bush in a recent poll.
This betrays the truth about the Republican Party: it will never accept immigration reform.
The GOP wouldn’t pass reform under George W. Bush and conservatives won’t let pass it under Jeb. Because in the dark recesses of the conservative brain the border will never be secure. This isn’t about facts — it’s about fear.
“They’re embracing the same arguments that were once aired at the Irish and German Catholics; at the Chinese; at the Italians and Poles and Jews: They’re going to undermine our culture; they’re disproportionately criminal or they’re carrying diseases; they threaten our way of life,” Jeff Greenfield writes.
It’s an argument that appeals to the far right base and alienates everyone else. And if the party hopes to win in 2016, it either has to hope for a complete disintegration of the economy or the Democratic nominee or it has to cut loose from the faction that only wants to please itself.