alien & sedition.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
  Those Liberal Republicans

So lately we've been seeing more data indicating that Americans -- especially younger Americans -- have been moving left. Now MSNBC's First Read reports that even Republicans may be considerably less conservative than many have assumed them to be. A new poll by Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates "challenges the conventional notions of conservatism," and indicates that the remarkable ideological flexibility among Republicans might benefit Rudy Giuliani.

I'm going to return the subject in more depth after I've had a chance to parse the numbers. But there are two key findings worth noting here. The first is that, on a broad level, half of Republicans seem to endorse the "liberal" view on any given issue. For instance:
On abortion
-Fifty-two percent believe abortions should be legal under certain circumstances.

On health care
-Fifty-one percent of Republicans agree that universal health care should be a right of all people. The moralists are also split on the issue.

On social welfare
-Half believe the government needs to provide a “helping hand” and safety net.

On gay rights
-Almost half of all Republicans favor gays serving openly in the military. Even four in 10 moralists think gays should be allowed to serve openly.

-Seventy-seven percent believe companies should not have the right to fire employees based on sexual orientation.
The other major finding is that even among dedicated social conservatives -- the "moralists" referred to above, who tend to focus on issues like abortion, gay marriage, and school prayer -- almost a third "say that [candidates'] leadership qualities are more important than their issue positions." And Giuliani leads the other GOP contenders even among these moralists.

This suggests that a substantial portion of the Republican base would disagree with Patrick Ruffini's argument that a panderer who says the right thing on the issues is better than an "authentic" politician who deviates from the party line. Then there's the question of what it is that gives Rudy that aura of authenticity, that convinces Republicans of his so-called "leadership qualities." I of course don't think there's much at all about Rudy Giuliani that's "authentic," but, in addition to and bolstering his reputation as the hero of 9/11 (an insult to the real heroes of 9/11), he may indeed have a certain Reaganesque flair for divining a popular mood and exemplifying it. My best guess is that Thomas Edsall had it right when he wrote that Giuliani's true political skill is his willingness and ability to polarize people. This might be what makes him the man of the current GOP zeitgeist, that in a time of ideological crisis on the right, he's the Republican who best recognizes and is able to take advantage of the fact that "the single thing that truly unites and energizes conservatives is a raw animosity toward liberals."

And that, not ideology, might be what defines the difference between the parties these days. If so, it means that while half of Republicans might agree with us on the issues, we're still very far apart.

Cross-posted at The Right's Field.

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"An obscure but fantastic blog." - Markus Kolic


Critical analysis of the American conservative movement from a progressive perspective. Also some stuff about the Mets.

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