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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Base Hit

Democracy Corps recently did a focus groups of Atlanta-area Republicans aged 45-60. The group issued a report that got a modicum of attention during a slow-news weekend. Authors
Stanley B. Greenberg, James Carville, Karl Agne, and Jim Gerstein reach these conclusions:
[T]hese 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.
To their credit, Greenberg and company do not resort to the tired charge that conservatives are racist. On the contrary, they write: "[W]e allowed for extended open-ended discussion on Obama (including visuals of him The Very Separate World speaking) among voters – older, non-college, white, and conservative – who were most race conscious and score highest on scales measuring racial prejudice. Race was barely raised, certainly not what was bothering them about President Obama."

In general, though, the report's tone is critical. It suggests that "mocked minority" belief is evidence that the Republicans are out of touch. Perhaps the authors are the ones out of touch. Evidently, they don't watch The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.

The focus group members worry about the abrupt growth of government. While other Americans might not use words such as "socialist," they are also concerned. Says Gallup: "New Gallup data show that 57% of Americans say the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals, and 45% say there is too much government regulation of business. Both reflect the highest such readings in more than a decade."

The authors are probably correct, however, that Republican base voters differ from independents in certain ways. But so what? So do Democratic base voters. According to one poll, 35 percent of Democrats believe in the core idea of "truther" conspiracy theory, the idea that President Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. The authors say that GOP base voters "are actively rooting for Obama to fail as president," though they do not quote any focus group members actually saying that. The "they want him to fail" charge seems to be another way of saying that they disagree with the president's policies. Are such sentiments really that outrageous? Base Democrats would have said the same thing about President Bush. Indeed, one of them was Carville himself, who said "I certainly hope he doesn't succeed."

So what we have here is a finding that base voters are base voters. Tune in next week, when we learn that Yankees fans tend to root for Bronx-based teams.