Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell offers a telling illustration of how differently the modern Republican Party thinks and operates. In fact, I’m not aware of any other major political party behaving in this fashion in the nation’s history, and if anyone can demonstrate otherwise, please do.
In the latest Gallup poll (see chart above), 67 percent of Americans say they would vote to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. There’s nothing particularly dramatic in that number; it’s in line with results obtained by other pollsters on the question.
But take a look at the breakdown among Republicans. Forty-seven percent want to end DADT; 48 percent want to retain it. Even among self-described conservative Republicans, 39 percent say they want to end the policy and allow gay Americans to serve openly.
Yet even though Republican voters are almost equally divided on the issue nationally, Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted almost unanimously against it, with just one GOP senator voting to end the filibuster yesterday afternoon.
Here’s an even more dramatic example, from the folks at Pew. Fifty-eight percent of Republican voters acknowledge that the best way to tackle the deficit is through a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. Just 32 percent say the answer is to focus mostly on cutting major programs. Even among self-described Tea Party members, 51 percent say the best way to address the deficit is through spending cuts and tax hikes, with just 39 percent advocating solving the problem through spending cuts alone.
Yet you can’t get a Republican on the Hill to even utter the word “tax hike,” lest they be condemned as a RINO. The sole focus is on cutting programs (of course, in a general rhetorical sense that rarely gets down to specifics.)
On other issues, the gap between Washington Republicans and GOP voters back home is less dramatic, but still significant. According to Gallup, 40 percent of Republicans opposed extending tax cuts for the wealthy or wanted the cuts ended across the board, for everybody. Yet Washington Republicans were unanimous in demanding the cuts for the wealthy be extended. Forty-three percent of Republicans, and 38 percent of conservative Republicans, supported extending unemployment benefits, but again that division of opinion was not reflected at all in Washington.
In other words, it’s not merely that Washington Republicans won’t compromise with Democrats. They won’t compromise even with their own voters. The national party is in the grip of radicals who accept no deviation from the approved party line, and who demonstrate no tolerance for the broader, more reasonable range of opinions that exists within the Republican electorate they claim to represent.