With the media blaring that his approval rating is at its lowest point since the August 2011 debt-ceiling debacle, President Obama is headed to Knox College for a fiery speech on the economy he hopes will revive his political fortunes the way his turn to populism did two years. We’ll see. But one thing is getting almost no attention in the most recent round of polls: the number of Americans identifying themselves as Republicans is in remarkable decline.
The National Memo’s Jason Settler broke it down Wednesday morning, with one of Huffington Post’s Poll Tracker charts: the percentage of voters calling themselves Republicans has dropped by more than 20 percent just since the 2012 election, from 29.2 percent to 23.4 percent last week. By contrast, Democratic voter ID dropped from 35.5 to 33.9 percent in the same period.
It’s not hard to see why. Despite RNC chair Reince Priebus’s laughable “autopsy” and early efforts on the part of 2016 hopefuls like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to convince his fellow Republicans not to be “the stupid party,” the GOP has been stuck on stupid. Of course, neither Priebus or Jindal really wanted the party to change its policies: the spineless Priebus won’t even go as far as embracing the word “tolerance." “I don't know if I've used the word 'tolerance,'" Priebus told David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network Monday. "I don't really care for that word myself. I don't have a problem with it, I just think it has another meaning politically that can go the other direction."
Got it? What a coward.
Since Priebus released his autopsy, his party has escalated its war on women with new abortion restrictions in red states and in the House, and turned to increasingly racist anti-immigrant rhetoric, race-hustling that demonizes African Americans, and most recently, a threat to either shut down the government or refuse to lift the debt ceiling unless Congress repeals Obamacare.
And that last threat comes not only from the crazed House GOP, but from Sen. Marco Rubio, to make up for his apostasy on the issue of immigration reform. This is not only the nullification party, but the unhinged-from-reality party, and voters are recoiling at identifying themselves with it, understandably.
But while it’s comforting to look at those numbers as a fed-up nation rejecting the intransigent GOP, it’s scary to look at the polling on which party voters think ought to control Congress. In the latest NBC/Wall St. Journal poll there’s a 44-44 tie – but that breaks down to favor Democrats in blue districts and Republicans in red ones. Republican gerrymandering – a practice also indulged by Democrats but never as brazenly as by the GOP since 2010 – means that it will be hard for Democrats to take back the House.
Another scary number is the percent of people who think Congress has been too inflexible in dealing with the president: While that number ticked up a point since January 2011, the share of those who think Republicans have compromised too much with Obama more than doubled, moving from 8 to 18 percent.
So Republicans’ numbers are declining, but the ones who are left are even crazier.
The president’s Knox College speech may be best understood as an effort to prepare the public for another debt-ceiling hostage crisis engineered by the GOP, against a backdrop of polling that shows that even as voters run from the Republican Party, too many blame Obama and the Democrats at least partially for gridlock. I certainly hope it works. The effect of Republican nullification is to turn off voters and, in particular, to discourage the Obama coalition from turning out in 2014. I’m happy to see Obama back in campaign mode, because Democrats can’t afford a rerun of 2010.