According to he latest Gallop poll, Republican Party Favorability Sinks to Record Low. "With the Republican-controlled House of Representatives engaged in a tense, government-shuttering budgetary standoff against a Democratic president and Senate, the Republican Party is now viewed favorably by 28% of Americans, down from 38% in September. This is the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992."
As I've read and believe, the GOP is struggling between the Tea Party ideologues and the more established party leaders. These groups have different motivations and believe in different tactics, which is why we've seen different demands and statements. Boehner is struggling to keep the party together and it's not clear if he'll succeed.
Ed Kilgore explains, The Obamacare Tipping Point.
If you want to understand why Obamacare became the initial target of the conservative movement’s radical effort to demand major policy concessions as the price of keeping the government operating and avoiding a debt default, look no further than Stan Greenberg’s focus groups of Republicans [pdf] he’s been convening on behalf of Democracy Corp. This material is fascinating on a broad range of issues, and one could take some exception to Stan’s GOP typology which divides the most conservative Republicans into Tea Party advocates and evangelicals. But on issue after issue, the focus groups confirm that both these conservative factions share a deep belief in the idea that Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are engaged in a very conscious effort to seduce a majority of voters—beginning, of course, with minorities—into supporting a “socialist” expansion of government that is already on the very edge of being self-perpetuating and ultimately totalitarian. And they see Obamacare—along with legalization of undocumented workers, which conservatives managed to stall before initiating their “Defund Obamacare” crusade— as quite probably the tipping point.
The idea being that policies that support immigrants and give healthcare to millions will guarantee a Democrat majority for years and this must be avoided at all costs. Though to my mind a government that helps a greater percentage of it's population seems to be the definition of doing something right.
The study, (which I'm still reading) Inside the GOP: Report on focus groups with Evangelical, Tea Party, and moderate Republicans breaks down the GOP into three groups:
- Evangelicals. Social issues are central for Evangelicals and they feel a deep sense of cultural and political loss. They believe their towns, communities, and schools are suffering from a deep “culture rot” that has invaded from the outside. The central focus here is homosexuality, but also the decline of homogenous small towns. They like the Tea Party because they stand up to the Democrats.
- Tea Party. Big government, Obama, the loss of liberty, and decline of responsibility are central to the Tea Party worldview. Obama’s America is an unmitigated evil based on big government, regulations, and dependency. They are not focused on social issues at all. They like the Tea Party because it is getting “back to basics” and believe it has the potential to reshape the GOP.
- Moderates. Moderates are deeply concerned with the direction of the country and believe Obama has taken it down the wrong path economically. They are centrally focused on market-based economics, small government, and eliminating waste and inefficiency. They are largely open to progressive social policies, including on gay marriage and immigration. They disdain the Tea Party and have a hard time taking Fox News seriously.
I wouldn't have broken it down into three groups but it makes some sense. The Tea Party Caucus page on Wikipedia puts some scale on that group. According to the study the moderates are 25% of the party. I assume they're the traditional wealthy and (big) business side of the party who funded everything, who just want government to leave business alone (with less taxes and regulation but you know subsidies and bailouts are good too) and want to lower marginal tax rates. For some more evidence of this group we have, Business Groups See Loss of Sway Over House G.O.P.
As the government shutdown grinds toward a potential debt default, some of the country’s most influential business executives have come to a conclusion all but unthinkable a few years ago: Their voices are carrying little weight with the House majority that their millions of dollars in campaign contributions helped build and sustain.
Their frustration has grown so intense in recent days that several trade association officials warned in interviews on Wednesday that they were considering helping wage primary campaigns against Republican lawmakers who had worked to engineer the political standoff in Washington.
Paul Waldman in The Power of No explains, "Why liberal Democrats in Congress, despite being greater in number, have nothing like the power of Tea Party conservatives."
Meanwhile, lets not forget the Republicans of the Bush administration (I guess the neo-cons are being sufficiently suppressed by the party these days), Waterboarding Is A Big Joke At Cheney Roast. "Conservatives gathered at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan Monday night to roast the former vice president at an event where many of the biggest laugh lines touched on the most controversial policies of a key architect of his administration’s war on terror."
“There were some waterboarding jokes that were really tasteless,” the guest said. “I can see the case for enhanced interrogation techniques after Sept. 11 but I can’t really endorse sitting there drinking wine and fancy dinner at the Plaza laughing uproariously about it.”