Brent Bozell, the president of the uber-conservative Media Research Center, has issued a bit of advice for the Republican Party that ought to make Democrats everywhere ecstatic.
“Incoming memo to the GOP: Set a torch to that big tent of yours. People are flocking from liberals’ failing policy and ideals.”
The impetus for this counsel is new polling from Gallup that says that Americans in recent years have become more conservative. Bozell’s knee-jerk reaction typifies the shallow and partisan analysis for which he is known.
The Gallup poll cited by Bozell does indeed show that 39% of Americans consider themselves more conservative than they did a few years ago. What Bozell fails to reveal is that a significant majority of those who say they have become more conservative were conservative to begin with.
Plus, it is mostly Republicans whose views have shifted more to the right. So what we are seeing is primarily a hardening of ideology by those who were already on the right side of the scale.
In addition, a prior Gallup poll showed that Republicans already reside in the smallest of tents, with 73% describing themselves as conservative and only 4% as liberal and 24% moderate. Democrats, on the other hand, breakdown to 38% liberal, 40% moderate and 22% conservative, a much more balanced community.
The obvious conclusion from the data in this poll is that there isn’t any advantage for officeholders or candidates to swing to the right. Even if the American people are sliding slightly rightward, that doesn’t mean that they will vote Republican. Just take a look at the results of last November’s election when Democrats took the White House and added seats in both chambers of congress. And contrary to Bozell’s contention that “people are flocking from liberals’ failing policy and ideals,” Gallup explicitly debunks that claim in their polling on specific issues.
Consequently, Bozell’s advice to the GOP to circle the wagons and become more exclusionary than ever can only help Democrats, who are presently viewed as more tolerant of diverse opinions. The public still blames Bush for the economy and Iraq; still prefers Obama’s approach to healthcare and immigration; and still has a 63% approval rating for the President.
So light up your torches, Republicans. Fan those embers of your party’s support. Feed the flaming rhetoric of your right flank. You are only going to burn down your own house.