That’s some number, coming not 10 days after Mr Social Conservative, Roy Moore, waltzed away with the Senate nomination in Alabama against Donald Trump’s wishes. My gut reaction was that it was weird that Moore would sweep to victory at a moment when the GOP writ large has never been more accepting of gays. But upon reflection I think this read by John Tabin is probably right:
Maybe more people are comfortable enlisting a berserker in a culture war rearguard action when his policy preferences become less plausible? https://t.co/E7HfdYFzhh
— John Tabin (@johntabin) October 5, 2017
Political hacks like me are forever grasping for ways to pinpoint the impulse that put Trump over the top last fall and put Moore over the top last week. “Populist” is fair enough, but that word also describes Bernie Sanders; “nationalist” works in some ways but Trump’s West Wing has far more “globalists” than nationalists in it. “Reactionary” may be closest to the mark. GOP Rep. Thomas Massie tried to reconcile Trump’s primary win last year with the fact that many of the same disaffected grassroots righties had supported Ron Paul in the 2012. “All this time,” Massie explained, “I thought they were voting for libertarian Republicans. But after some soul searching I realized when they voted for Rand and Ron and me in these primaries, they weren’t voting for libertarian ideas — they were voting for the craziest son of a bitch in the race. And Donald Trump won best in class, as we had up until he came along.” Trump was the most potent middle finger to America’s liberal political and social establishment culture last fall; Moore was the most potent middle finger to that same culture last week.
But that culture is winning for the most part:
It’s tempting to imagine a “Trump effect” at play, ironically, since gay issues are one element of liberal culture where Trump himself isn’t particularly politically incorrect. But that upward trend among both parties has been consistent over years. Trump’s not doing anything to discourage the trend, at least. We’ll see if Moore’s sudden vogue among Trump’s base moves the needle any.
Take 10 minutes and scroll through the graphs in Pew’s new survey, which is brimming with fascinating data about the partisan divide in American politics. Some divides are familiar; others have gotten dramatic over time and explain the stalemate on all sorts of policies. For instance, are we sure it’s Republicans who’ve grown radical in their views of immigration over the past 20 years?
GOPers have been fairly consistent, even turning a bit more positive in their views of immigrants since the Clinton era. Democrats? Not so consistent, except in the trend. On the other hand, here’s an issue where Republicans have moved quite a bit more than Democrats have:
Ten years ago the spread between the parties was nine points. Ten years later it’s 41.
As a Twitter pal said, knowing nothing more than their stance on environmental policy and racial discrimination, you could guess with strong accuracy where someone stands on the political spectrum:
In 1994 just 13 points separated the parties on the question of whether racial discrimination is the main barrier to black economic progress. Twenty-three years later, the spread is 50 points. Interestingly, the gap didn’t really begin to widen until well into Obama’s first term, with roughly 20 points or so dividing Democrats and Republicans circa 2011. In the past year alone, Democrats are up 14 points on that question. Is that a Trump effect or something else? Just to complicate this further, since progressives will point to the data as evidence of Republican hostility to all pro-black policies, a majority of the GOP — 52 percent — thinks affirmative action policies to bring more black and minority students to campus are a good thing. Three years, just 46 percent said so. Overall, support for affirmative action is up 11 points across the population since 2003.
One more for you. You want polarization? Now this is polarization:
Even the famously polarizing Barack Obama was minor league compared to Trump. The partisan gap for O was 62 points. For Trump it’s 80. It’s the historically abysmal ratings among Democrats that are mainly driving that, but don’t ignore the fact that Trump has a higher approval among Republicans during his first year than any recent president except Dubya, who had a 9/11 popularity surge to carry him to his heights. Just 12 percent of Republicans, the hard core of anti-Trumpers, say that Trump has changed the party for the worse. When asked if he’s made the party better or worse, even self-described conservatives split 45/8. It really is Trump’s party now.