Here’s the good news: the percentage of Americans who believe the seriousness of global warming is “generally underestimated” has been going up. It’s now one in three. It had gone down to one in four in 2010, the year of the Tea Party. Here’s the bad news: more people think the problem is “generally exaggerated” (41% in the April Gallup poll).
There’s still a lot of skepticism out there, and it’s mostly among Republicans. Over the past 15 years, more and more Republicans have come to believe that climate change is exaggerated. Only 34% of Republicans felt that way in 1998. Now 64% do.
The gap between the parties on global warming has widened considerably. In 1998, the difference was 11 points. It grew to 32-38% in the early 2000s. Since President Obama took office in 2009, the difference has gotten huge. Republicans are 41-47 points more likely than Democrats to believe the seriousness of global warming is exaggerated.
By Bill Schneider
We are witnessing the slow death of public opinion in this country. It’s being displaced by party opinion.
These days, more and more Americans are inclined to judge issues from a partisan viewpoint. In March, according to a Pew Research Center survey, twice as many Republicans (53 percent) as Democrats (27 percent) said the economy was poor. Yet, from everything we know, Republicans are not suffering more economic deprivation than Democrats.
Elections today are less and less about persuasion and more and more about mobilization: You rally your supporters in order to beat back your opponents. Republicans did that in 2004, when President George W. Bush got re-elected with 51 percent of the vote. Democrats did that in 2012, when President Barack Obama got re-elected with 51 percent of the vote.
Republicans today are all fired up over the controversies involving the Internal Revenue Service, the State Department and the Justice Department. They see Watergate.
By Bill Schneider
Old vaudeville joke:
Man goes to the doctor. Says he has a pain in his arm.
“Have you ever had this problem before?” the doctor says.
“Yes,” the man answers.
“Well, you got it again.”
Now look at the Republicans’ immigration problem. Have they had this problem before? Yes. Well, they’ve got it again.
By Bill Schneider
Defying your base is always risky. It can either bring you down — or it can make you look stronger.
Right now, politicians in both parties are trying to pull it off. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) – a likely contender for the 2016 Republican nomination – is preparing to challenge conservatives on immigration reform. President Barack Obama is defying liberals on entitlement reform. What are they thinking?
By Bill Schneider
Fiscal crisis? What fiscal crisis? The stock market is up, unemployment is down and the deficit is shrinking.
The fiscal crisis is in Washington, and it’s a crisis of Washington’s own devising. All those deadlines! January 1: the fiscal cliff. March 1: sequesters. March 27: a possible government shutdown. Sometime in August: the debt ceiling, again.
The unending fiscal crisis could take up the entire year. President Barack Obama desperately wants to end it. For one thing, more spending cuts could bring on a recession. For another, an unending fiscal crisis would monopolize the agenda. No time for Congress to take up immigration reform or gun control or the minimum wage or preschool education.
What can Obama do? Here are the options:
By David Brown
President Obama and his Republican dining companions showed last week that bipartisan schmoozing is back. Whether bipartisan deal-making will follow is anyone’s guess. But if it does, there are reasons to believe tax reform will be on the menu.
The most visible movement on tax reform is in the House of Representatives. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) last week announced that the bill name “H.R. 1” would be reserved for tax reform. Traditionally, House speakers have given that title to bills that are among their top priorities. Consider some of the recent bills with that name: the stimulus package of 2009 and the Medicare prescription drug law of 2003.
The H.R. 1 designation signals the end of an internal Republican dispute over whether to proceed with tax reform. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-OH) previously advised the party to avoid the issue, because its progress could require votes on controversial topics like the mortgage and charitable deductions. But now, with Boehner’s blessing, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) has a green light to pursue his priority issue.
A new report released Tuesday by Freedom to Marry and Third Way, found that state legislators who vote in favor of marriage for same-sex couples overwhelmingly win voter support when running for reelection.
Based on election results in two states that passed freedom to marry laws in the 2011-2012 legislative cycle and whose members stood for reelection — New York and Washington state — the analysis, “Pro-Marriage Legislators Win Elections,” finds that pro-marriage legislators who ran for reelection won 97 percent of the time.
This is significantly higher than the national incumbent re-election average of 90 percent in 2012.
Do voters punish legislators who support marriage for gay couples? A look at the data from the 2012 election shows that the answer is NO.
- 97% of those who voted for marriage and ran for reelection won, compared to only 90% of incumbent state legislators nationwide.
- Of the 5 who lost, 2 were under investigation for corruption or misuse of taxpayer dollars, so only 3 of 146 lost without being under an ethics cloud (2%).
- At least 85% of the 13 Republican legislators who voted for marriage since the 2010 election did not lose their seats because of it.
Read the study by Third Way and Freedom to Marry for the details: “Pro-Marriage Legislators Win Elections”
By Bill Schneider
“The truth is, we’re going to have to have some higher taxes in order to generate the money we need to solve the problem.”
When was the last time you heard a Republican talk like that? That was Virginia’s Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling talking to the Washington Post last month about the state’s persistent transportation crisis. Bolling has been elected to his position twice as a Republican (in 2005, when Virginia elected a Democratic governor, and in 2009 when the state elected the current Republican governor).
Bolling says he will decide by March 14 whether he will jump into the race for governor this year as an Independent, or what he calls an “Independent Republican.” It could be the first battle in a Republican civil war resulting from Mitt Romney’s unexpectedly decisive defeat last year. “It’s just a challenging time for the Republican Party when a conservative, mainstream guy like me doesn’t really feel comfortable with his party,” Bolling told the Post. “The party has moved too far, and it’s become too extreme and too ideological.”
Case in point: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has become the champion of tea party and religious right Republicans. Last year, Cuccinelli supporters took over the Virginia Republican Party’s central committee and switched the contest for the 2013 gubernatorial nomination from a primary to a convention. Bolling, who was planning a primary race, didn’t stand a chance to carry a convention controlled by Cuccinelli activists. Bolling got out of the Republican race a few weeks after the presidential election in November, after waiting to see whether he would accede to the governor’s chair if Romney won and appointed the current Republican governor to an Administration position.
Government a Threat?
A majority of Americans believe the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms. That’s something we’ve never seen before. Polling by the Pew Research Center and other organizations show the number of Americans who feel threatened by the federal government climbing steadily since 9/11. In January 2013, nearly a third of Americans called the federal government “a major threat.”
What rights and freedoms do people believe are threatened? The polls do not say. But there appear to be a variety of perceived threats, judging from the groups that feel most threatened.
At the top of the list: conservative Republicans, more than three quarters of whom see the federal government as a threat. President Obama represents their worst nightmare of big government: huge deficits, government bailouts, government control of health care. After health care reform was signed into law in 2010, a Tea Party activist told a rally in Iowa, “Every single person’s body in this whole country belongs to the government now.”
Also near the top of the list: gun owners, 62% of whom see the federal government as a threat. That’s one of the reasons they buy guns.
Increased government surveillance after 9/11 appears to have played a role. The biggest jump occurred between 2002 and 2003 when many security measures like those at airports went into effect. You even find heightened concern among self-described liberal Democrats. More than a third see the federal government as a threat to their personal rights and freedoms. Liberals may have different complaints—more about the Patriot Act and civil liberties than gun rights and health care—but they, too, share the concern about big government.
Read more in this month’s Inside Politics Newsletter.
By Bill Schneider
More than 25 years ago, Representative Jack Kemp told me, “In the past, the left had a thesis: spending, redistribution of wealth and deficits. Republicans were the antithesis: spending is bad.”
He went on to explain, “Ronald Reagan represented a breakthrough for our party. We could talk about lower taxes and more growth. We didn’t have to spend all our time preaching austerity and spending cuts. The question now is: Do we take our thesis and move it further, or do we revert to an anti-spending party?”
We now have the answer. Republicans have reverted to an anti-spending party. Their latest cause? Austerity. Their argument? A shrinking economy is better than big government.
Parties are becoming increasingly ideologically homogeneous, more and more Americans are identifying themselves as independents. An August 2012 Third Way study found that both Republican and Democratic registrations dropped from 2008 to 2012 in five of the eight battleground states that register voters by party, while independent registrations jumped in six of the eight.
In the states wher parties hold closed primaries, the voter pool is more ideologically driven, making it more likely a hard-core liberal or conservative will emerge from the primary, no matter how competitive the district is. That’s true in 24 states for Republicans; 19 for Democrats.
— National Journal on “Why Reforming the Primary Process Would Produce a More Productive Congress”