A village cannot revise village life to suit the village idiot. — Frank Schaeffer
On Tuesday, the Daily Kos published a new Research 2000 study showing the current state of belief in the GOP. Though the results aren’t anything new — indeed, the study just puts hard numbers to everything we already thought we knew about the right wing — the data also show, in sharp detail, just how far to the right the GOP has been dragged by its right wing…and how far out of step they are with the rest of America as a result.
The data also show that Frank Schaeffer was more than fair in characterizing these people as America’s “village idiots.” For one thing, they really are a bitterly small minority. Last week, I laid out some numbers of my own, which showed that the conservative movement as it’s currently constituted only represents the views of about 25 to 30 percent of Americans. (And, historically, that’s about as big as conservative movements ever get in the US — though it’s plenty big enough to do some real damage.) Furthermore, according to a Gallup approval ratings are well within the normal range for a one-year president. Since his TV appearances last week, they’re up over 50% again — and, as Rachel Maddow notes, the Omentum is rising.
Do you think Barack Obama is a socialist?
Not Sure 16
OK, fine. All faithful FOX watchers know that Obama is a socialist. But the problem for the village idiots is: it’s increasingly true that socialism is a terrifying boogeyman that only they can see. For them, it’s Mao and Stalin. For the rest of us, it’s just another day of government-built roads and schools.
“>BS News poll taken two weeks ago found that 71% of Americans do not want to Sarah Palin to run for president in 2012. Only 20% of us (apparently the same ones the Kos poll talked to) think this is a good idea.
Should Congress make it easier for workers to form and join labor unions?
Not Sure 25
This is “I’ve got mine — get off my lawn” conservatism in a Faberge jewel-encrusted nutshell. “>An America’s Voice poll released on January 19 found that 87% of Americans favor comprehensive immigration reform that includes fortifying the border, penalizing employers, and a citizenship path for current immigrants that includes working, paying taxes, and learning English.
Do you support the death penalty?
Not Sure 5
The whole country is still conflicted about this issue, and the consensus is far from clear. The Death Penalty Information Center “>Media Matters cites four studies done last spring by Gallup, CNN, Quinnipiac, and the Washington Post, all showing that between 56 and 81 percent of Americans favor allowing gays to openly serve in the military. Now that the Joint Chiefs are fully on board with this as well, that 55 percent of Republicans against are increasingly the only people left in the country who are opposing this.
Should same-sex couples be allowed to marry?
Not Sure 16
The demographics of this issue put the historical momentum firmly on our side when it comes to the rights of LGBT people to form legal families. Full marriage rights are still controversial among some groups (like African-Americans), and in some parts of the country (like the south). But a wide range of studies last year found that Americans are generally running about 40% in favor, and that number grows by a percent or two each year as the very pro-gay-rights Millennials replace the more deeply conflicted Silent Generation in the voter base.
The better news: according to “>the last good poll on this (which was conducted by Pew and NPR in 2004) only seven percent of Americans think sex education doesn’t belong in the schools. Just 15 percent think abstinence-only education is a good idea; and only 19 percent think sex ed programs should be silent on the issue of homosexuality.
On the other hand, 55 percent of us think kids should be taught how to use condoms; and a sensible 77 percent believe that having this information will make it more likely that kids will practice safe sex.
Yet about half of all Republicans apparently cling stubbornly to the belief that if you don’t talk to adolescents about sex, it’ll never occur to them to have it on their own — an idiot delusion that ends too often the day little Tiffany comes home pregnant.
Should public school students be taught that the book of Genesis in the Bible explains how God created the world?
Not Sure 8
I wish the news here was better. This may be the only issue where the Republicans in Kos’ survey may actually have their fingers on the American pulse. (I apologize in advance for any sleep lost by this revelation.) The last time Gallup the Guttmacher Institute, 98 percent of sexually active women between the ages of 15 and 44 have used a contraceptive method. Among the 42 million fertile, sexually active women who do not want to become pregnant, 89% are currently practicing contraception. It’s reasonable to assume that the overwhelming majority of these are doing this with the knowledge and support of their male partners.
Contraception has been thoroughly embraced by four generations of American couples. But a third of Republicans want to roll the whole country back a full century to the days before Margaret Sanger; and another 18 percent have acknowleged that thinking this no-brainer all the way through is simply above their pay grade.
Do you consider abortion to be murder?
Not Sure 16
According to the indispensable Nate Silver, who’s “>A 2008 Pew study found that 70% of Americans think that many religions, not just their own, can lead to eternal life. That’s very good news for a democracy founded on the principle of e pluribus unum — and bad news for a party that’s relied far too long on stirring up religious antagonism for political gain.
* * *
Taken as a whole, the Kos data shows a Republican party that’s falling farther and farther out of touch with the American mainstream. More interestingly: it also suggests a party that’s falling into a concentration-of-craziness pattern that doesn’t happen in healthy political movements, but is very typical of authoritarian groups in the middle-to-last stages of decline.
In this pattern, the radicals take control of a previously healthy and well-balanced group, and start taking hard positions that alienate the group’s more moderate members. Often, these moderates are driven out because they’re too reality-based and lack sufficient revolutionary zeal. (Republicans-in-name-only — “RINOs” — have been hunted to extinction in the GOP; but it’s important to note that these kinds of intramural purity crusades are ubiquitous in all kinds of radical groups going sour, both on the left and right.)
Losing their moderates also means that the group loses the ballast that keeps them from leaning too far to the crazy edge; and the moorings that kept them tethered to some level of objective reality. Without that ballast and mooring, the group is free to drift in a more radical direction. And because they’re now smaller, they also tend to feel more persecuted and embattled by the larger culture — which leads to more paranoia-driven purity crusades within the group, which alienates the next slice of semi-sane people into leaving, which in turn distills the levels of paranoia and radicalism further yet.
This vicious cycle typically repeats until there’s nothing left but a few True Believers ranting on a street corner somewhere (if you’re lucky) or resorting to domestic terrorism to regain their lost renown and take out their revenge on the culture (if you’re not). The fact that the GOP has been reduced to 20 percent of the voting pool — and that that 20 percent holds views that are so deeply at odds with the mainstream of America — suggests that the Republicans are in the grip of a cycle that portends serious problems with the party’s continued viability.
Comparing these two sets of numbers also calls into question the conventional (though not-well-documented) wisdom that though the GOP’s own numbers are small, they still command strong allegiance among the 38% of Americans who consider themselves independents. On issues like Sarah Palin, don’t-ask-don’t-tell, sex education in schools, contraception, and religious tolerance, the overwhelming mainstream support for the progressive position shows that on many important issues, these independents are keeping a big philosophical distance from the ever-more-conservative GOP.
As we’ve argued here for several years: America is, at heart, still a progressive country in most of the ways that matter. The Kos poll shows us, once again, just how far from that mainstream the conservatives have drifted. At this point, it should be clear to everybody that doing things their way would amount to nothing more than rearranging American life to suit the whims of our village idiots.