Prominent pollster: GOP is estranged from America
As one whose career covering politics dates back to the days of such Republicans as John B. Anderson, Lynn Martin, Everett Dirksen, Bob Michel, Howard Baker and, yes, even Ronald Reagan, it actually pains me a little to pass along THIS COLUMN by Andrew Kohut, founder of the Pew Research Center and a former president of the Gallup Organization:
In my decades of polling, I recall only one moment when a party had been driven as far from the center as the Republican Party has been today.
The outsize influence of hard-line elements in the party base is doing to the GOP what supporters of Gene McCarthy and George McGovern did to the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s — radicalizing its image and standing in the way of its revitalization.
In those years, the national Democratic Party became labeled, to its detriment, as the party of “acid, abortion and amnesty.” With the Democrats’ values far to the left of the silent majority, McGovern lost in a landslide to Richard Nixon in 1972.
While there are no catchy phrases for the Republicans of 2013, their image problems are readily apparent in national polls. The GOP has come to be seen as the more extreme party, the side unwilling to compromise or negotiate seriously to tackle the economic turmoil that challenges the nation.
It is no surprise that even elements of the Republican leadership that had been so confident of a Mitt Romney victory — including when it was clear that he was going to lose the election — are now looking at ways to find more electable candidates and cope with the disproportionate influence of hard-liners in the GOP. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus only scratched the surface this past week when he dissected the party’s November defeat: “There’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; and our primary and debate process needed improvement. So there’s no one solution. There’s a long list of them.”
To win, both parties must appeal to the mixed values of the electorate. But it will be very hard for the Republican Party, given the power of the staunch conservatives in its ranks.
Of course, the Democrats of the 1970s were able to overcome their obstacles. All it took was Watergate, an oil embargo and a presidential pardon of Nixon for Jimmy Carter to secure a thin victory in 1976. Not even the most frustrated Republicans could hope for a similar turn of events.