Tea Party and the Right  
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It May Be Hard to Believe, But GOP Will Become Even More Extreme, Respected Political Forecasters Say

Focus groups find the GOP in a battle for its political survival.

The Republican factions leading the war on Obamacare, the federal government shutdown—and attacking other Democratic priorities such as preserving safety nets, expanding civil rights and regulating big business—are going to become more extreme and intransigent, top Democratic pollsters have concluded.

“Understand that the base thinks they are losing politically and losing control of the country… and [feel] a little powerless to change course,” the analysis by Stan Greenberg, James Carville and Erica Seifert found after a series of focus groups in three red states this summer. “They think Obama has imposed his agenda, while Republicans in DC let him get away with it.”

Their Democracy Corps report is an illuminating profile of the GOP’s three main factions: the Tea Partiers leading today’s brinkmanship, the evangelicals lining up behind them, and overlooked but still significant moderates. At the front of this stampede are right-wingers who believe they are fighting for political survival in an era where white-run America is vanishing and they’ve lost the culture war.

In this paranoid world, Obamacare is Armageddon, the setting for the final battle between good and evil, and the rallying cry that unites the party’s factions.

“Republicans shut down the government to defund or delay Obamacare,” the report said. “This goes to the heart of Republican base thinking about the essential political battle. They think they face a victorious Democratic Party that is intent on expanding government to increase dependency and therefore electoral support. It starts with food stamps and unemployent benefits; expands further if you legitimize the illegals; but insuring the uninsured dramatically grows those dependant on government. They believe this is an electoral strategy—not just a political ideology or economic philosophy. If Obamacare happens, the Republican Party may be lost, in their view.”

The pollsters describe the beliefs of three distinct GOP factions whose passions and thinking are critical to understanding what’s happening in the shutdown and what may ensue in its aftermath. For example, should the White House invoke emergency powers to avoid a federal debt default—as some legal scholars and historians have suggested—their analysis portends that the Tea Partiers and Evangelicals, comprising more than half of the party, will ramp up the rhetoric, accuse Obama of tyranny and possibly even pursue impeachment.

But Democracy Corps’ analysis also describes a political party in turmoil. It suggests that the right-wingers’ escalating tactics will further alienate the 25 percent of Republicans who identify as moderates, including fiscally conservative but socially liberal women who surprisingly told the focus groups they would consider voting for Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.

The report also said that, “climate change is poised to replace healthcare reform among Republicans, with the same dynamics in evidence. But that also could further isolate and divide Republicans too.” It noted, “Evangelicals and Tea Party Republicans share and are consumed by skepticism about climate science—to the point where they mistrust scientists before they begin to speak.”

Race is very much at play in right-wing politics and identity, the pollsters found.

“While few explicitly talk about Obama in racial terms, the base supporters are very conscious of being white in a country with growing minorities,” they said. They believe that “their party is losing to a Democratic Party of big government whose goal is to expand programs that mainly benefit minorities.”

Three Distinct Factions

The report’s most intriguing elements were quotes from members of the various factions that reveal core beliefs and splits in GOP ranks, such as evangelicals’ fervent oppositon to gay rights and reproductive choice, while the Tea Partiers’ don’t want any government role in an individual’s private decisions.