Posted by Brad @ 1:28 pm on July 31st 2009

Depressing Poll Number of the Day

From Dailykos/Research 2000, which yes is more or less explicitly fishing for results which will embarrass Republicans, but whose methodology is sound such that even critics (RCP) had to finally include them as reliable, that they sure aren’t manufacturing them.

In this case, the good news: 77% of Americans believe Barack Obama was born in the United States.

The bad news: only 42% of Republicans do.

The majority believe he was not, or aren’t sure.

8 Comments »

  1. When a party shrinks itself to its base elements, chasing out anyone who opposes doctrine, it will inevitably produce results along these statistical lines. Small sample sizes are a bitch.

    I don’t know why we ought to care. The issue is settled, legally speaking. If the Republicans have good arguments on policy, they remain good arguments whether the proponents believe in evolution; if they have bad arguments, they would be bad arguments even if we liked the proponents. All the birthers in the world won’t make Obama’s stimulus package a retroactive success.

    Case in point: many of the writers at this blog have a fondness for one or more libertarian ideas; however, a poll of Libertarian Party members on various conspiracy issues would produce results that would make the above data look rational by comparison.

    Comment by Rojas — 7/31/2009 @ 3:01 pm

  2. I’m not sure of that, for one. I would guess there would be big chunks of the libertarian base that would buy any number of individual conspiracy theories, but not any one collective one, if that makes sense. I’d be interested in seeing a 911 poll among self-identified LP members though. My guess would be it would fall almost exactly along the same lines as this poll, but then that’s some order of magnitude of an even smaller sample size. AT the very least, in this poll, you’re still talking about some millions of people to generalize the results to. What is 58% of the Republican base in terms of gross numbers? Less than it was to be sure, but still a lot.

    Here’s where this stuff interests me as a Republican-watcher, Rojas. I obviously take all your points every time you make them regarding policy arguments. But as you and I know, policy is not made in a solely or even primarily policy-argument paradigm. It is made, I would argue, MORE as a result of political culture, and that’s what this kind of stuff speaks to.

    I do think it is worth assessing, in some respects, not the motives per se of political opponents but at least their level of good faith. It is one thing if it is two competing ideologies in tension, trying to hammer out some sort of compromise solutions to pressing problems. I would argue that the nature of the Republican position, or at least much-even-most of it, does not presently fall along those lines. Rather, I think, for a significant quorum of Republican policy-makers informed by a significant quorum of Republican voters, this is not a matter of policy at all, but rather of sheer dehumanization. There is a Real America, and then there is an anti-America, as Michelle Bachman put it. When you BEGIN the policy discussion on that assumption (with of course Real American being a function of party ID and a very tightly defined set of cultural and political keystones), the policy argument is almost irrelevant.

    Putting that another way, I do believe that, for the most part, good Republican ideas will find a way into the Democratic health care debate and eventually policy, by and large—indeed, that Democrats, mostly for not very noble reasons (that defensive crouch of theirs) almost bend over backwards to sort through the muck and pick out the “good arguments on policy” that you speak of, even where I myself might not have the patience (as the “good arguments on policy” probably makes up something like a single digit percentile of Republican oppositional discussion at the moment). I do NOT believe that the converse is true, that policy arguments NO MATTER HOW GOOD will penetrate the Republican conceptualization, and I include not just policy arguments but also circumstances. Democrats, for the most part, are in service of an ideological worldview. Republicans are in service of a jingoistic one, for lack of a better word.

    Which is why I think it’s difficult to dismiss the as you put it “unhinged element” of the Republican oppositional movement at present. Because it is not a sideshow. If anything, intellectual and policy conservatism is the sideshow.

    That does not mean that we should not accept any policy or even ideologically based critiques or proposals that come from the right. Far from it, since they’re becoming so rare we ought to throw them on our shoulders and parade them around (you’d be doing the blog a favor if you wanted to cover that niche, btw). But it is to say that the debate that is being had within, say, 80% of the country on questions relating to the hot button topics you’re bringing up (stimulus, “capitalistic excess” or whatever Paul Krugman might like to call it, health care, race at the moment) is not the same argument being had by the 20% of the opposition that are presently ostensibly representing the other side.

    To put that one final way, though I was inclined to shake it for awhile (which is why I haven’t banged that drum for awhile), I am more or less returning to my position that the greatest enemy of a conservative vision of America at present is not, in fact, Barack Obama or liberals or the majority of the country that are electing them more or less on good faith, even where I disagree with them. They are joining the debate, again from a more or less good faith perspective, and they are offering solutions, even if I don’t agree with those solutions. The greatest enemy of a conservative vision of America at present are the self-proclaimed torch bearers for it. One can’t expect, for instance, that when a massive circumstance causes the debate to take on a sudden urgency and relevance again, that liberals would suddenly stop being liberal. But it is problematic when, at that time, the natural opposition to liberals decide to fall away from the kind of sober policy talk you’re talking about. We can’t be vigilant against liberalism when our own house is so badly out of order. Somebody somewhere needs to start cleaning shop. If not, it is not really liberalism’s fault that the conservative vision loses out. One can ignore the loons for awhile, and as much as they are just a vocal minority that’s well and good. When they reach a certain critical mass, however, you have to take the fight in-house, or you’ve lost that general argument before you’ve even joined it. When you have two armies squaring off, and approximately two thirds of yours have guns that don’t work (or backfire), the logical next step is not to march forward. There are a whole host of steps before that.

    Weirdly, I am starting to have the feeling that I may end up campaigning for Mitt Romney in the primaries of 2012.

    Comment by Brad — 7/31/2009 @ 3:36 pm

  3. Blame the South.

    Image is courtesy of Washington Monthly and uses data from the same DailyKos poll.

    Comment by Cameron — 7/31/2009 @ 4:25 pm

  4. Here’s a cool thing.

    The head of Public Policy Polling tweeted this morning:

    RT @pwire Just 42% of GOP think Obama is a citizen… http://pwire.us/… (I am a little skeptical of this finding- may ask on next nat. poll)

    Then, three hours later:

    Adding a birther question to our Virginia poll for this weekend

    And then, three hours after that:

    I take back my skepticism about R2K poll- only 79 of first 168 respondents to Va. poll think BHO was born in USA! 56 say no and 33 not sure

    That’s 47-33-19% yes to no to not sure. The R2K poll in the South was 47-23-30%.

    Comment by Brad — 7/31/2009 @ 6:12 pm

  5. Dehumanizing?

    What percentage of self-described Democrats do you think would agree with the statement “the majority of Republicans are motivated by greed and/or racism?”

    Do you care?

    I don’t, especially. You seem to see this in terms of “cleaning house.” The problem with that, or with Sullivan’s similar take, is that your take on the Republican Party at this point more or less guarantees that it is no longer your house to clean. Mine either, I suppose. You’re not providing an internal critique of the party, the way that Buckley, for instance, did with anti-Semitism.

    Nor can this be an internal critique of the conservative movement, because your argument at this point appears to include the claim that these cultural conservatives are not conservatives at all.

    It ought to be telling to you that your “internal critique” of Republicanism matches EXACTLY the talking points proffered by the Obama Administration any time somebody challenges their policy agenda or political tactics. Proffering cartoonish representations of the opposition is not the same thing as BEING the constructive opposition. My goal is to be the latter, or, when I agree with Obama, to in any event be constructive.

    One of the other suppositions in your post is the claim that the Democrats will attempt to integrate constructive Republican suggestions into the health care package. I don’t know that philosophically that’s even POSSIBLE at this stage, as the only really impressive alternative I’ve seen is the CATO blueprint, which is utterly incompatible. But I disagree with your thesis on other grounds anyway. Demonization of the Republican party is just too effective a tool for the Dems right now, and the Republicans are too willing for them to play into their hands, to stop for any reason. They will certainly want to APPEAR accomodating, of course, because that makes the tactic all the more effective.

    Comment by Rojas — 7/31/2009 @ 6:50 pm

  6. Dehumanizing?

    What percentage of self-described Democrats do you think would agree with the statement “the majority of Republicans are motivated by greed and/or racism?”

    There is a fundamental difference in kind here that you’re trying to equivocate away and I think, most times we get into this, you just don’t get. I am not objecting to saying anything bad about someone, and not all bad things you could say about someone are the same, which is where you seem to come from.

    It is one thing to have negative assumptions about people with whom you disagree. That’s par for the course, and I don’t really complain about the characterization you give above coming from Democrats (save the racist thing, and in fact I do get into it with Democrats quite a bit on that point), in the same way I don’t really complain about similar grouses with Democrats (that they’re nanny-staters, that they’re appeasers, that they’re Big Government whatevers).

    I will put forward that there is a difference in kind between those kinds of critiques and, for instance, saying someone is “pro-terrorist”, or Evil in the absolute sense of it, or traitors. Or, to flip it, there is a fundamental difference in kind from the accusation that the Bush administration consciously profited off 911, or that they “allowed” it to happen in the inaction sense of it, and saying they actively planned it. They are not the same kinds of accusations, and the conversations dictated by the radically different starting point assumptions required for those views are very, very different, in that one doesn’t result in any conversation at all save that words are being spoken out loud.

    There is a fundamental difference between believing that the person you’re arguing with is wrong, and believing that they are some other breed of person altogether.

    It ought to be telling to you that your “internal critique” of Republicanism matches EXACTLY the talking points proffered by the Obama Administration any time somebody challenges their policy agenda or political tactics. Proffering cartoonish representations of the opposition is not the same thing as BEING the constructive opposition.

    Here’s the thing Rojas, and the reason I posted the poll but otherwise haven’t really mentioned the birther stuff much.

    It is not a cartoonish representation, in this case. It is, it turns out, an ACCURATE one. Cartoonish, as you’re using it, implies taking a minority and imbibing it with majority importance. But in this case we’re not talking about a minority. If anything, you’re the one talking about the vocal but relatively ineffectual minority.

    I think that believing that the other side is wrong is a PREREQUISITE for party ID. That’s not what we’re talking about, unless, again, you believe all level of disagreement is the same, and I don’t believe that you believe that. There is a fundamental difference between, to use your example, William F. Buckley and Glenn Beck. The problem is, the Becks are presently running the show in the Republican party to a FAR more significant extent than they are in the Democratic party.

    One final quickie, though I think I’m getting lost in my own weeds here:

    One of the other suppositions in your post is the claim that the Democrats will attempt to integrate constructive Republican suggestions into the health care package. I don’t know that philosophically that’s even POSSIBLE at this stage, as the only really impressive alternative I’ve seen is the CATO blueprint, which is utterly incompatible.

    The Republican opposition has been internalized and been part of the Democratic plan from the beginning. The Democrats, by all rights, could pass single payer health care if they wanted to right now. If one truly assumes that a total socialized health care state is the ultimate goal of liberalism, how do you square how watered down, at every step, that purported vision has become? Democrats don’t NEED a single Republican vote, nor do they really need to convince anybody (as the vast majority of Americans seem to be broadly in FAVOR of socialized medicine, though those numbers are changing now). So why do they want them so badly?

    Comment by Brad — 8/1/2009 @ 2:48 am

  7. This may be overly cynical, but I assume that the Democrats want Republican votes for cover when things go bad.
    Plus, it always looks good to the public when you come across as trying to be bipartisan.
    It’s hard for me to imagine that the Democrats actually care one whit what the Republicans want.

    Democrats, for the most part, are in service of an ideological worldview. Republicans are in service of a jingoistic one, for lack of a better word.

    I’m not sure what you mean by this, exactly, but I will, from time to time, read DailyKos, and the level of venom spewed there towards Republicans (and libertarians, when we’re deemed worthy of comment) leads me to believe that the Democrats are just as jingoistic and ideological as the Republicans.

    Comment by Redland Jack — 8/1/2009 @ 3:49 pm

  8. PPP has decided to follow up.

    According to Public Policy Polling (PPP), a North Carolina polling firm, only 24% of self-identified Republican voters in the state believe Barack Obama was born in the United States. 47% do not believe that Obama is American born, and 29% of Republicans aren’t sure. One part of PPP’s data might reassure sentient readers somewhat: 7% of those who voted for John McCain do not believe Hawaii to be a part of the United States. Now perhaps this is just another irrational expression of Obama hatred. But, it may also be older voters who never quite absorbed the news that our 50th state is indeed our 50th state.

    Comment by Brad — 8/12/2009 @ 12:53 pm

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