The Real Problem

07.24.12

35 Percent of the People Have 50 Percent of the Representation

Ron Brownstein is always worth reading, and his write-up of a new National Journal survey covering public pessimism about our polarized politics has lots of interesting stuff. I was particularly struck by this:

Rank-and-file Republicans remain somewhat less likely to favor leaders who compromise than do Democrats or independents. But since the September 2010 poll, Republicans have moved more than the other two groups toward prizing compromise. In the new poll, 48 percent of Republicans said they most admired leaders who compromise (compared with 45 percent who prefer those who don’t.) That’s a sharp shift from September 2010, when just 33 percent of Republicans said they admired leaders who compromise, and 62 percent admired those who did not.

Among Democrats, 62 percent now say they most admire leaders who compromise (up more modestly from 54 percent in 2010). Among independents, 51 percent now favor leaders who compromise (up from 40 percent in 2010).

Would not logic suggest that 80 or 90 percent of independents prefer compromise? After all, they're not in either party! But this finding puts the lie to the idea that independents are really all that "independent." Most are functionally Democrats or Republicans when it comes to voting; they just don't like having the label applied to them for whatever psychological reason.

These findings suggest pretty clearly that Republicans--and Republican-minded independents!--are a bigger impediment to compromise than Democrats, and of course I believe that to be true. Ultimately, politicians mostly do what their base voters and interest groups want them to do. Democrats would compromise on budget things if Republicans would.

We always say that we're a deeply divided country, but that's a little misleading. Put more precisely, the problem is that roughly 35 percent of the people--hard-shell conservatives--have 50 percent of the representation in Washington.That's really the problem.

This again brings me to what I regard as the #1 needed solution to our political problems, which is more Republican moderates. If I had a few billion dollars, I would found a group to revivify moderate Republicanism and find candidates and run primaries and take out some conservatives. I'd do this even though I'm a Democrat. It's that important. We are screwed until there's a functioning moderate wing of the GOP, at least a dozen senators and 30 or 40 House members. That is what we need to have a system that works again.