After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee published the so-called “GOP autopsy report“An attempt to identify and address the party’s persistent political weaknesses. But eight years later, after losing another close race, the GOP appears completely disinterested in reviewing or reforming its agenda. In fact, despite assuming the presidency, the Democratic Party was much more interested in developing an attractive thematic agenda. “There is only one political party that is afraid of losing an election because it looks too extreme,” said Seth Masket, a FiveThirtyEight writer and political scientist at the University of Denver. “There’s a huge party asymmetry.”
But despite the fact that the GOP is pretty unpopular and so much of it current agenda – such as repeal the Affordable Care Act or move forward restrictive immigration policy – does not appeal to a majority of voters, the party is in an enviable position on the way to the mid-term elections in 2022 and beyond. What is to be made of this blatant separation?
On the one hand, the GOP is fundamentally opposed to the type of legislation that usually has broad public support: generous social policy. Most Americans want a payer health system, paid parental leave, and a higher minimum wage. But most Republicans ideologically reject these policies – either because they don’t believe it is the responsibility of the federal government, or because they believe that this policy will ultimately prove counterproductive. For example, a May 2021 poll by the Pew Research Center found that more than Three quarters of the Republicans said the government was taking on too many roles that would be better left to individuals and businesses.
But the main reason the GOP may not be promoting more popular policies is because recent history suggests it is unnecessary. Former President Trump’s surprise election victory in 2016 showed that an unpopular candidate with little interest in public order can still win. Conservative activists disappointed with the results of the election campaigns of Romney and the late Senator John McCain learned in 2016 that political candidates with personal baggage or extreme political views are no longer liable.
The current structure of the electoral college and US Senate also allows Republican candidates greater discretion in circumventing popular law. For example, former FiveThirtyEight reporter Perry Bacon Jr. argued last March that the GOP’s structural advantages over the Democratic Party have enabled lawmakers to pursue more conservative policies than the average voter prefers. And as Laura Bronner and Nathaniel Rakich also wrote at FiveThirtyEight, Republicans did this even though they were often in the minority: “Republican senators have not represented a majority of the population since 1999 – but from 2003 to 2007 and again from 2015 to 2021.The Republicans had the majority of the Senate themselves. That means Republican Senators were ten years Hand over invoices – and not bypassing others – on behalf of a minority of Americans. ”In addition, Gerrymandering, especially in state legislative races, isolated Republican members from the popular mood.
Recent political science studies offer another plausible explanation. In an increasingly polarized political system, individual issues may be less important than partisan identity. In other words, partial loyalty to your own team is paramount. So instead of voting on issues, Americans seem to be adopting the views of the party leaders. In a 2019 Interview with the New York Times, Stanford political scientist Shanto Iyengar says that this is waning the relevance of political issues: “There is a growing body of work that shows that political preferences are determined by the eagerness of the partisans to support their party rather than a careful analysis the advantages and disadvantages of opposing positions on a particular topic. ”
All of this has one crucial caveat. When the Supreme Court Roe v. Calf picks up, the 1973 opinion which established a constitutional right to abortion, abortion may be the most critical test yet of the GOP’s ability to defy political gravity. While Americans have conflicting views about abortion, few believe that it should be completely illegal. Because of this, a ruling that overturned Roe would put tremendous pressure on elected Republican officials to fully advocate the most extreme position – the total illegality of abortion. It would almost certainly become a campaign topic in 2022, and Republican elected officials would be forced to defend a position that is largely unpopular.
The first and foremost aim of national political parties is to win elections. So if Republican candidates continue to win elections without offering an agenda that has broad public support, there is no reason to expect a change of party. The party is already poised to turn a profit in 2022 without making a proposal Government agenda. What would force the GOP to reassess? “It would take a sustained series of election losses,” said Masket. “They’d have to lose elections that they didn’t expect to lose.”
But even then it is not clear whether a course correction would be the end result. If the GOP can convince yourself again and again that election losses are due to electoral fraud and / or electoral crime, there is no reason to believe that the party’s agenda will change anytime soon.