early and often

Republicans Have Not Changed Their Extremist Views

Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

According to an awful lot of observers, Republicans are about to win a midterm victory because they are laser-focused on addressing the country’s economic problems and have managed to moderate their views on the cultural issues that previously troubled so many voters.

This approach may work for the GOP in the context of a midterm election when disgruntlement with life itself hurts the party that controls the White House and Congress. But aside from the fact that they have no actual policies for reining in inflation that won’t horrify the very voters who elected them, Republican candidates and their conservative-party base haven’t actually given up their extremist views on cultural or “values” issues, as a new survey from Pew Research Center makes clear.

Seventy-nine percent of voters currently supporting Republican candidates believe that “white people do not benefit much/at all from advantages in society that Black people do not have.” So much for GOP evolution on racial justice. Seventy-six percent of these putative Republican voters agree that “the obstacles that once made it harder for women than men to get ahead are largely gone.” That is not the perception of a lot of women. Seventy-one percent of these GOP voters agree that “the Islamic religion is more likely than others to encourage violence among its believers.” That’s a pretty good example of what is generally known as religious bigotry. Sixty-nine percent say “most things in society can be pretty clearly divided into good and evil.” So much for a willingness to compromise and exhibit tolerance. And as a bonus, 64 percent say that “if America is too open to people from around the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.” That’s classic xenophobia. Less surprisingly, 76 percent believe “government regulation of business usually does more harm than good.” So you can probably forget about fighting climate change, ensuring employees have safe workplaces or adequate pay and benefits, or protecting against employment discrimination.

Other surveys show that 60 percent of self-identified Republicans want to ban most or all abortions, despite Republican candidates’ attempts to fudge the issue or change the subject in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision reversing Roe v. Wade, which made abortion a policy issue for federal and state lawmakers again. And for all the GOP’s sudden reticence about a federal abortion ban, Republican members of Congress, with strong support for their base, are pursuing a national “Don’t Say Gay” law modeled on Florida’s reactionary effort to suppress discussion of sexual or gender identity in schools.

The tilt in the national-issue landscape away from cultural issues and toward economic concerns has not changed the values of the two big national-party coalitions, even if it has changed their rhetoric and campaign talking points. Whatever inroads they make into Latino, Black, or college-educated suburban constituencies based on various grievances with the status quo, the Republican Party remains at heart an assemblage of older white voters who long for an “American greatness” defined by traditional power arrangements that perpetuate privilege and inequality. It’s worth remembering for anyone contemplating a “protest vote” to register disappointment with Joe Biden or congressional Democrats.

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Republicans Have Not Changed Their Extremist Views