The last eight years have not been demographically kind to the Republican Party:
In 2001, respondents were asked for their party affiliation, and independents were encouraged to pick one of the two major parties. Democrats had the narrowest of leads over the GOP, 45% to 44%. This year, Dems are up to 53%, while Republicans have slipped to 39%.
That’s quite a shift. Despite this, the Republican Party continues to, unerringly and unwaveringly, pick the wrong side of practically every political issue.
Americans back Sonia Sotomayor by more than a 2-to-1 margin:
Sixty-two percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say Sotomayor should be confirmed, among the highest levels of support for a high court nominee in polling data back to Robert Bork in 1987. The only numerically higher was 63 percent initial support for Clarence Thomas, which fell when his nomination turned controversial.
Twenty-five percent of Americans say Sotomayor should not be confirmed (pdf).
The Republican Party is staunchly opposed.
Americans back radical healthcare reform by more than a 3-to-1 margin:
The national telephone survey, which was conducted from June 12 to 16, found that 72 percent of those questioned supported a government-administered insurance plan — something like Medicare for those under 65 — that would compete for customers with private insurers. Twenty percent said they were opposed.
The Republican Party is, once again, staunchly opposed.
It’s too easy to dismiss this behavior by saying that it doesn’t make any sense. It obviously makes sense to the leaders of the Republican Party. So it’s much more fruitful to ask: what sense does it possibly make?
Well, it doesn’t make sense if the leaders of the Republican Party are aiming to become a nationally relevant force again. But if they have come to despair of becoming a nationally relevant force any time soon, then the only game left to play is preserve what the Republican Party now is (from further erosion), instead of seeking to expand it to some semblance of what it used to be.
Then, it makes perfect sense not to care about winning over the American people as a whole, but to focus only on retaining the enthusiastic approval of the hardcore base.
And so Republican leaders have long ago given up even trying to play to the entire national audience. They are performing only for the approval of a pitiful minority of Americans. The 25% minority that opposes Sotomayor. The 20% minority that opposes healthcare reform.
That’s the politics you are reduced to when you despair of becoming a nationally relevant force again: the politics of despair.
As a corollary, Republicans have also abandoned all pretense of actually participating in the process of governing this country. Over the weekend, Hilzoy wrote something which exemplifies the complete political dysfunctionality that results (italics hers):
Obviously, if some released detainee commits an act of terror against the US, all hell will break loose. And the costs of that will not be purely political: people might not get health insurance, or we might be unable to act on global warming, if some released detainee decides to blow himself up in an American city.
It’s actually a little worse that that. People might not get health insurance, or we might be unable to act on global warming, even if some released detainee doesn’t decide to blow himself up in an American city. Because Republicans long ago passed the point where they need to be able to point to something to justify their obstructionism.