A wise man once asked “How far is all the way, and then if it stops, what’s stopping it, and what’s behind what’s stopping it?” Politically, debt default is all the way, House Republicans are what’s stopping the government, and the GOP base is what’s behind what’s stopping it.
For all the inane punditocratic discussions of how weak John Boehner is or how Obama needs to go golfing with Ted Cruz lies a central, simple reality: the GOP base is insane. I still don’t fully grasp what unites evangelicals and Randoids, but this is a pretty description of the basic dynamic:
[T]he kamikaze caucus, by seeking to block the president by any means necessary, is reflecting the back-to-the wall desperation evident among grassroots Republicans convinced that Obama and his urbanized, racially diverse supporters are transforming America into something unrecognizable. Although those voters are split over whether the current tactics will work, they are united in resisting any accommodation with Obama.
Veteran Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who has studied the two parties’ coalitions since the 1980s, recently conducted several focus groups with GOP voters that probed this passion. He concluded that the roaring sense of embattlement among the almost all-white tea party and evangelical Christian voters central to the GOP base draws on intertwined ideological, electoral, and racial fears.
These core conservative voters, Greenberg wrote recently, fear “that big government is meant to create rights and dependency and electoral support from mostly minorities who will reward the Democratic Party with their votes.” Much like Mitt Romney’s musings about the 47 percent, these voters see an ominous cycle of Democrats promising benefits “to increase dependency” among mostly minority voters who empower them to win elections and then provide yet more benefits (like a path to citizenship for immigrants here illegally). Obama’s health care law looms to them as the tipping point toward a permanent Democratic advantage built on dependency and demographic change.
I understand that the Republican party rose to power by playing on southern white opposition to civil rights. It was a disgusting tactic, but it was the smart move, Nixon was always smarter. Doubling down on it with all the anti-gay marriage stuff in 2004 was stupid, and tripling down on it in 2010 was dumber still.