The day after the midterm elections, as Republicans were still celebrating their big wins, Rush Limbaugh issued a stern warning to his GOP allies: don’t even try to get stuff done. Republicans, the radio host said, “were not elected to govern.”
Limbaugh elaborated, making the case that Republicans were elected “so that there’d be continued gridlock.” In other words, as far as the far-right media figure is concerned, gridlock isn’t just the unfortunate byproduct of divided government in highly polarized times, it’s the actual, intended result of popular will.A day later,
It seemed like an odd perspective. The country actually wants gridlock? That’s the goal?
Actually, for most Republican voters, yes. The Pew Research Center published some interesting survey results today.
Overall, 57% of the public says Republican leaders in Washington should try as best they can to work with Barack Obama to accomplish things, even if it means disappointing some groups of Republican supporters [….]Within the Republican Party, only about a third of Republicans and Republican leaners (32%) want to see the GOP leadership work with Obama if it disappoints some groups of Republican supporters. About twice as many (66%) say GOP leaders should stand up to Obama even if less gets done.
In other words, Limbaugh’s sentiment may sound ridiculous, but it’s actually a reflection of Republican voters’ will in general. Two years ago, most GOP voters wanted their party to work with President Obama following his re-election, but such attitudes have clearly faded away – by a two-to-one margin, rank-and-file Republicans would prefer nothing to cooperative governing.
Democratic voters don’t think that way, nor does the country at large, but the GOP electorate doesn’t much care. Their priorities are, in order: (1) reject and oppose Obama at all times; and (2) see point (1).
The significance of results like these should be obvious. Congressional Republican leaders at least say they want to govern and prove that the party is capable of getting things done for the country.
But the party’s leadership is not only going to face pushback from their own members, they’ll also see poll results like these, telling them that governing is simply not the priority of the Republican base.
For six years, congressional Republicans have been guided by a North Star: don’t compromise, don’t accept concessions, don’t negotiate in good faith, don’t look for common ground. And it’s against this backdrop that GOP voters are effectively telling their party’s elected officials, “Keep up the good work.”
A few months from now, when the Beltway is wondering why nothing is getting done, and the post-election niceties about cooperation are a distant memory, keep this Pew Research Center report in mind.