On a conference call with reporters just now, Democracy Corps’ James Carville, Stan Greenberg and Karl Agne went over their focus group study of Republican base voters and their worldview that President Obama is out to destroy the country — and the pressure this puts on Republican voters to make no compromises with the Obama administration.
“I don’t know if we’ll say we were startled,” said Carville, “but if you take the position that these Republican voters take, it’s easy to see why it leads to this, but they really believe that Obama has a secret agenda here. And our view is this is a dominant view in the Republican Party.”
Karl Agne also noted that GOP voters see the the party’s leadership as too timid and not strong enough on the issues: “Their negative view of the Republican party is really startling.”
Carville explained: “What they want is, if people in Washington look at the Republican Party, they say, gee, they really oppose everything the President does. What these folks say is what they’re doing is not enough, they want more opposition. If you’re a Republican and you watch this, and you don’t want to get primaries, there’s nothing here that tells you to go compromise on anything — quite the contrary.”Later on, Stan Greenberg said that if he were in the Republican leadership, “I would be very careful about having people meet with Obama or talking with him or sounding like you don’t want him to fail.”
Agne said that this attitudes about Obama among independent voters, especially those who might lean somewhat conservative, is very different. “They harbor doubts, there’s not doubt, but they want to see the president succeed, they want to see the country move forward,” said Agne. “And that’s diametrically opposed to what the Republican base voters want — they want him to fail.”
Another major theme on the call was that hatred of Obama is not centered around race — the focus groups were given an open, relaxed environment to discuss what they thought, and this never came up. I asked whether race might be there as an undercurrent, taking shape in other forms such as birtherism, but even here the hosts shied away from it.
Greenberg said that while there were certainly some individuals who used racial epithets, it wasn’t a motivating force overall. “I’m not saying people don’t have racial attitudes, but in these discussions they didn’t slip into a racial discussion,” said Greenberg. “They had very explicit discussions about being accused of racism, and the one thing they gave Obama credence for was saying it’s not racism.”
Greenberg said the focus here has to be on ideology, and on the accusations that Obama is a socialist out to undermine America, as he’s been accused of since the 2008 campaign: “It’s not just tactical. It’s deeply felt as a worldview, and what’s at risk in a battle between the parties, as viewed by the conservative Republicans.”
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