Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Level Playing Field? Not So Much


We all know that one guy in high school who, despite being a complete dickbag, managed to use a combination of guile, bullying, sucking up, and outright lies to become the Big Man On Campus. You know the guy I'm talking about. He was class president. He edited the school paper. He got the lead in the school musical despite having a tin ear and a voice like Professor Bunsen from the Muppets. He was prom king. And everybody hated his guts.

This is today's Republican Party.

In the past, Republicans ran on a platform of limited government. It wasn't until the late 1960s that the GOP started adopting social conservatism as its raison d'etre. Since then they have been lurching further and further to the right, and their messaging has become more and more truculent and exclusive, so that today we have a Republican Party whose main campaign strategy is "We're not Democrats."

A Quinnipiac University poll1 (you can find the original results here) released in March of this year shows that the American public disagrees with trump and the Republican Party on almost every agenda issue:
  • Did Jess Sessions lie under oath during his confirmation hearings? 52% yes; 40% no.
  • Should Jeff Sessions resign as a result? 51% yes; 42% no.
  • Do you approve of the way in which trump is handling U. S. p;olicy toward Russia? 32% yes; 54% no.
  • Do you support the idea of an "independent commission investigating potential links between some of Donald Trump's campaign advisors and the Russian government?" 66% yes; 30% no. The only group -- racial, age, gender, etc. -- that varied markedly from this result was Republicans: 30% yes, 64% no.
  • A total of 61 percent are "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" about President Trump's relationship with Russia. A total of 62 percent of voters say alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election is a "very important" or "somewhat important" issue.
  • Should trump support efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? 45% yes, 51% no.
  • Should health insurance be affordable for all Americans? 84% say it is "very important;" 12% say "somewhat important."
  • Are you confident Congressional Republicans will replace the ACA with something good or better? 44% said "very confident" or "somewhat confident;" 54% said "not so confident" or "not confident at all."
  • Should illegal immigrants be allowed to remain in the U. S. and eventually become citizens? 63% say yes; 11% say they should be allowed to stay but not become citizens, and 23% say they should not be allowed to stay. This 63% is the highest level of support since Qunnipiac began asking this question in 2012.
  • Under what circumstances should illegal immigrants be deported? 55% say only deport those who have committed a serious crime; 21% favor those who have committed any crime -- even parking tickets; 19% say all illegal immigrants should be deported; 3% say none.
  • Should federal spending be increased for infrastructure? 90% yes; 8% no.
  • Should federal spending be increased by $54 billion for the military? 45% yes; 51% no.
  • Should public schools allow transgender students to use bathrooms, etc. consistent with their gender identity? 48% yes; 45% no. Among women support runs 55% in favor and 37% opposed, whereas with men it runs 39% in favor and 54% opposed.
The Hart Research Associates conducted a poll2 (results available here) from June 3-5 asking if people supported trump's education agenda:
  • 74% opposed trump's cuts in trump's budget request from March.
  • 71% disagreed with cutting $2.4 billion currently used for teacher preparedness.
  • 73% opposed elimination of $1.2 billion for after-school programs.
  • 76% found elimination of $168 million for career and technical education unacceptable.
The poll was conducted among a representative sample of voters across America: 45% of those surveyed were trump voters, and 40% identified as Republicans, while 48% voted for Hillary Clinton and 41% identified as Democrats.

Even the Conservative Review, one of the more "tempered" voices of the Right Wing Shriek Factory, acknowledges that the party is in some disarray3: 71% of of Republicans surveyed say the Freedom Caucus (formerly known as the Tea Party) is having a negative effect on the party.

So what does all this mean, anyway?

Simple. The Republicans do not have a winning agenda. However, it is the agenda favored by large donors to Republican campaigns and the evangelical right, so rather than adjusting their platform to accommodate the American people they have resorted to political dirty tricks to stay in power.

For example, voter suppression. From voter ID laws intended to suppress the vote of the elderly and minorities, populations that tend to vote Democratic, to state-level measures that make it harder to get registered to vote, to Kris Kobach's "Cross Check" database that purges people from the voter rolls at random (true story: I was once told, at the polling place, that I could not vote because I had a felony on my record. It turned out that someone in my town has the same first and last name -- different middle initial, though -- as I do, and that person had been charged with a felony. Not convicted, mind you; the case was still pending, but only charged. He was later acquitted, but it still took several months to get my voting rights restored).

Then there's gerrymandering. Right about now the RWSF is bleating that "Democrats do it too," and they are correct. However, the Dems have done it twice: MD3 and IL4, whereas the GOP has at least seven gerrymandered districts across the country. For example, in Pennsylvania Republican candidates for Congress won 48% of the vote in 2012, compared to a hair under 50% for Democrats (the rest going to third party, independent, and bogus write-ins). Given that Pennsylvania has eighteen Congressional seats, this would lead one to believe that each party won nine seats, right?

Wrong. Republicans won 13 out of the 18, because the GOP was able to draw the districts pretty much unopposed in 2010 thanks to a Republican legislature and a Republican governor.

(That's not to say that Democrats are blameless. They aren't, but that's a topic for another article.)

What it boils down to is that the Republicans cannot win based on their agenda, and they know it ... which is why they are resorting to shady tactics. If the voter suppression and gerrymandering were removed, Democrats in general -- and liberals in particular -- would be winning in huge numbers. It is only because the left is artificially excluded from participation that the right is even marginally relevant.

I gotta lie down.

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1From March 2 - 6, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,283 voters nationwide with a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points. Live interviewers call landlines and cell phones.
2U. S. News and World Report: The results are based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of voters conducted online from June 3 to June 5.
3Email poll conducted as part of the April Capitol Insiders Survey, CQ Roll Call’s email poll of congressional staff.

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