Friday, December 28, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Reveals Long-Term Partisan Divide

Following up on my report yesterday, "America's Crisis of Big Government Cronyism and Corruption."

Here's Ronald Brownstein, at National Journal, "The Fiscal Cliff's Greatest Threat Is to American Unity":

Obama Boehner
The real issue in the frantic final flailing over the fiscal cliff isn’t whether Washington can balance its books. It’s whether blue America and red America are capable of, or even interested in, mediating their differences. The evidence is growing more discouraging.

Across almost every front, the process of pulling apart that has reshaped the political landscape over the past generation appears to be accelerating.

At the national level, President Obama and Mitt Romney mobilized almost mirror-image coalitions. Over 40 percent of Obama’s votes came from minorities; nearly 90 percent of Romney’s votes came from whites. Obama won three-fifths of voters under 30; Romney won more than three-fifths of white seniors.

Compared with Democrats, Republicans since the 1980s have been a more ideologically homogenous party that is more resistant to compromise—as last week’s rejection of House Speaker John Boehner’s fiscal “Plan B” demonstrated. (Electoral incentives help explain that imbalance: Because self-identified conservatives outnumber liberals among voters, Democrats in most places need to carry more moderates to win than Republicans do, and that creates greater pressure on Democrats to compromise.) But after an election in which Obama won despite historic deficits among the blue-collar and older whites that once anchored the conservative end of his party’s coalition, ideological cohesion is rising among Democrats too.

Consider the profile of Obama and Romney voters that Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz traces in an upcoming paper. In the Election Day exit poll, three-fourths of Obama voters said that government should be doing more to solve problems, while over four-fifths of Romney voters said that it is already doing too much. More than four-fifths of Obama voters wanted to maintain or expand his health care law, while nearly nine-in-10 Romney voters backed its repeal. Three times as many Obama voters as Romney voters supported legalizing gay marriage.

This same pulling apart is evident in the states. Eighteen states—what I’ve called the “blue wall”—have voted Democratic in at least the past six presidential elections. After November’s ballot victories in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, seven of them have now authorized gay marriage and six others have approved civil unions or broad domestic partnership rights for same-sex couples. Depending on how legislative or court fights unfold, it’s conceivable that California and New Jersey, two blue-wall states, could approve same-sex-marriage ballot initiatives by 2016. Meanwhile, virtually every Republican-leaning state has barred gay marriage.

Similarly, 14 governors have agreed to join the expansion of Medicaid that represents one pillar of the Obama plan to cover the uninsured; Nevada’s Brian Sandoval is the only Republican among them. Almost all Republican governors also let the deadline pass earlier this month without establishing the online exchanges that comprise the other big coverage expansion. Even after Obama’s victory eliminated the possibility that his health reform bill would be repealed, Republican governors are continuing what amounts to a sit-down strike against it.

This centrifugal tendency is now embedded in Congress’s DNA. As split-ticket voting has declined, fewer legislators in each party are elected, in effect, behind enemy lines (by voters who usually prefer the other party for the White House).

Michael Franc, vice president for government studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation, correctly observes that because of that dynamic, during a confrontation like the fiscal cliff, most legislators are more likely to face demands to stand firm than complaints about inflexibility. “When everybody goes back home, I don’t think they are feeling the heat from their constituents” for failing to reach agreement, Franc says. “If anything, they are hearing the opposite. So ... there’s no rational political incentive to back down.”
There's more at that top link. Brownstein concludes by lamenting the nation's "fraying sense of common purpose." Actually, that's not what the data are telling us. All those constituents back home in the red districts don't want America moving further into the socialist orbit, becoming a Sweden, or worse, a Cuba. The Democrats cling to power with a coalition of dependents. The Democrats welcome all manner of hard-line socialists and collectivists into their midst. And the president himself leads the morally bankrupt intransigence in government. It's all about punishing the successful demographics in the name of fairness. Screw these people. Republicans need to stay strong against the onslaught.

PHOTO: The White House Flickr page.