Saturday, October 12, 2013

Greatly Exaggerated

"One irony," Nate Silver writes, "is that while the House has been the focal point for GOP intransigence on the shutdown, Republican candidates for the Senate may have much more at risk, since the race for that chamber is much closer and contains a much higher proportion of competitive races."

Though ironic, Republican Senators are far more concerned than their colleagues in the House (contradiction in terms, there) about the political fallout from the course the GOP has chosen, as Silver understands probably better than any of us.

Responding, presumably, to glee on the left over poll numbers for the GOP which are historically low, the justifiably famed sabermetrician and psephologist also argued on October 10

The most recent Gallup poll shows a much sharper drop in Republican favorability ratings than in those for Democrats, which could presage a shift in the generic ballot.

But measures that put the parties head-to-head are much more valuable. I'll be more convinced about the electoral downside for Republicans if and when we see such a shift in the generic ballot, or, say, in a number of Senate races around the country. 

This didn't stop Rachel Maddow, who that evening remarked

We have found something this week on which our nation can agree. The American people agree that it would be bad for the nation to go totally, catastrophically bankrupt all at once, so that we all have to move out of our houses and take up living in yurts and milking goats. The American people agree that that, even though it might be fun for a weekend, is a bad idea for the country as a way forward.

In a new poll released just this happening by NBC and "The Wall Street Journal," nearly two-thirds of Americans say that Republican doubts aside, failing to raise the debt ceiling would be a, quote, "real and serious problem." Ten days now into this government shutdown, the same survey from NBC and "The Wall Street Journal" finds that Americans are also really quite clear about who they`d blame for this mess.

They blames, by a margin of 22 points. It is not close. And that, of course, is not good news for the Republican Party.

Now, to be fair, it`s not like it`s roses for anybody, for things to be this bad. Look at this. President Obama is about six points above water, his favorable/unfavorable. So, his positive ratings are six points higher than his negative ratings. The Democratic Party is actually underwater by a single point. Their positive ratings are one point lower than their negative ratings. OK.

Look at this. House Speaker John Boehner, whose Republican Party is blamed for the shutdown, he`s at minus 25. The Tea Party movement, they`re at minus 26. The Republican Party, the entire Republican Party, checks in at minus 29.

That`s the end of the world. That`s terrible! That`s 28 points south of the Democrats on the favorable/unfavorable scale. That doesn`t exist in two-party states.

The Republican Party has never polled lower than they are polling right now in the history of this poll. Why do people dislike them so much right now? Well, in the same poll, 70 percent of people say Republicans are putting own political agenda ahead of what is good for the country.

These are horrifying, finger vision numbers for Republicans, these numbers in tonight`s brand-new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll. And these arrived on top of yesterday`s Gallup numbers, which were also historically bad numbers for the Republicans.

The Gallup survey, over the last 20 years, shows that in the past 20 years, Republicans have really never been as unpopular as they were in that moment, in December 1999, when they voted to impeach President Clinton. I mean, nothing could compare to -- December 1998, sorry. Nothing could compare to the plunge in the polls they took there in December 1998, right? Nothing could compare to how bad that was, until now.

Now they are even worse than they were then. Americans disliking the Republican Party right now more than they ever have in modern history. And maybe this avalanche of seriously bad news for the Republican Party explains more than anything else why we may have started to see the very beginning of the beginning of the start of the beginning of the end of this crisis today. Maybe? Hopefully. Possibly.

Hopefully, yes.  Maybe, not so much.  In a post so insightful none of it should be cut, Steve M. of No More Mister Nice this week blogged

The conventional narrative right now is that the government shutdown and debt brinkmanship are doing tremendous damage to the GOP, as seen in that new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, and that's why Republicans are talking to the White House. But if there's damage, it's not going to be to the Republican Party -- it's going to be to just one versionof the Republican Party, the one that brought us to this crisis. As I told you even before the shutdown began, the Republican Party as a whole never gets the blame it deserves, because the mainstream press responds to every GOP failure -- Watergate, the 1995 government shutdown, the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the Iraq War, the 2008 financial collapse -- by quickly announcing the birth of a new Republican Party that utterly expunges the sins of the old.

It's happening again.

Look at this gushing story about Paul Ryan, from the front page of today's New York Times. Ryan emerged from the shadows this week, and we're clearly supposed to regard that as wonderful news, because he's serious and thoughtful and just, well, dreamy. He's a hard-liner and a moderate! An ideologue and a conciliator. A floor wax and a dessert topping:

Representative Paul D. Ryan may have temporarily receded into the Capitol shadows after his stinging vice-presidential defeat in November, but he remains a powerful presence among House Republicans, earning the respect of hard-line conservatives for his budget blueprint and the trust of anxious moderates for his pragmatism.

Now, the impasse that has shuttered much of the government and steered the nation toward a default has offered the Wisconsin congressman a new opening to reassert himself -- and suddenly a man who seemed in danger of being eclipsed as the face of his party has re-emerged as essential to its rescue.

"I want to get to a budget agreement," Mr. Ryan said bluntly on Thursday, after House Republican leaders latched onto his plan to offer a short-term increase in the debt ceiling as a way forward on deficit reduction and tax reform talks. "We think this takes us in the right direction."

Mr. Ryan, 43, has immense credibility with conservatives for his "Path to Prosperity" budget, which proposed politically risky Medicare changes and deep tax cuts. Moderates see Mr. Ryan, who has broken with some conservatives over immigration, as a lawmaker with some flexibility. In many respects, his standing exceeds that of the party's titular leader, Speaker John A. Boehner. Perhaps most important, Democrats believe that when Mr. Ryan drafts a plan, he can actually deliver the votes. They hold no such confidence in Mr. Boehner.

"He's still the intellectual center of Republicans in the House," said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, who serves as Mr. Ryan's bridge between the House Budget and Appropriations Committees. "He's a guy who commands universal respect in the conference and the trust of leadership, and he has credibility with the other side." ...

I'll stop there. Are you getting the heavy-breathing quality of this? The romance-novel words -- "powerful," "reassert," "bluntly," "immense"?

We're supposed to ignore the fact that the Republicans are still shutting down the government. We're supposed to ignore the fact that they're still talking about a very brief respite from debt blackmail. A manly man, both tough and gentle, has taken the lead, and we're all supposed to swoon. 

The mainstream press always does this -- always tells us that the GOP that just drove the car off the cliff two minutes ago isn't the real GOP. When the party's problem was seen as racism, Marco Rubio was declared to be the real GOP. When the problem is seen as "Washington," Chris Christie is said to be the real GOP. For now, it's Ryan. And if the current talks break down and Ryan gets some of the blame, it'll be someone else. The Republican Party is never at fault, because the Republican Party is endlessly malleable, in the mainstream press's view.

The "liberal" media loves Paul Ryan, who opposes Medicare and Social Security.  And Chris Christie, who opposes women's health care.  And Marco Rubio, who- oh, heck, who knows what Marco Rubio is (other than not being a son of refugees from Castro's Cuba)?  And what it loves most is a Repub (almost always a Republican) whom it can plausibly label "fiscally conservative" and socially moderate.  No one knows exactly what that means, but that's the beauty of the phrase, aside from enabling the media to imply that the GOP is not thoroughly saturated with right-wingers dedicated to the proposition that those who have should get more, with extra points if they take from those who have little.

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