Is Obama Radicalizing Republicans?

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 3 2014 @ 5:14pm

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Looking over some new polling from Quinnipiac University and CNN, Aaron Blake concludes that Obama’s executive action on immigration has made the chances of a comprehensive reform bill getting through Congress even worse. Why? Because it has “exacerbated the real problem with getting comprehensive reform done: a very motivated opposition”:

The Q poll shows support for allowing illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship falling to its lowest point since the survey started asking the question two years ago. Fewer than half — 48 percent — now support a path to citizenship, down from 57 percent one year ago. The poll also shows that 35 percent say these immigrants should be required to leave (the word “deportation” is not mentioned). That’s a new high, and it’s up nine points from the last poll. And here’s the real kicker: The shift is almost completely among Republicans. Although they supported citizenship over deportation 43 to 38 percent in November 2013, today they support deportation/involuntary departure over citizenship, 54 to 27 percent.

That’s two to one — a stunning shift.

And if it’s even close to accurate, there are very few Republicans in Congress who will be eager to vote for comprehensive reform in the 114th Congress. … The CNN/Opinion Research poll tells a similar tale. Although 42 percent favored the policies that Obama announced and 46 percent opposed them, it was clear where the motivation remains: with the opposition.

Waldman remarks that the pro-deportation shift among Republicans in the Quinnipiac poll “provides an object lesson in a dynamic that has repeated itself many times during the Obama presidency”:

We’ve talked a lot about how the GOP in Congress has moved steadily to the right in recent years, but we haven’t paid as much attention to the movement of Republican voters. But the two feed off each other in a cycle.

Immigration is a perfect example. Before this latest immigration controversy, Republican voters were at least favorably inclined toward a path to citizenship. But then Barack Obama moves to grant temporary legal status to some undocumented people (and by the way, nothing he’s doing creates a path to citizenship for anyone, but that’s another story). It becomes a huge, headline-dominating story, in which every single prominent Republican denounces the move as one of the most vile offenses to which the Constitution has ever been subjected. Conservative media light up with condemnations. And because voters take cues from the elites on their own side, Republicans are naturally going to think the order was wrong while Democrats are going to think it was right.

Drum wonders how Obama compares to past presidents:

Bush polarized public opinion in the same way Obama does. Perhaps all presidents do. Still, it sure seems as if Obama polarizes more than any previous president. I can think of several reasons this might be true:

• Something to do with Obama himself. This could be anything from underlying racism to the nature of Obama’s rhetoric.

• Our media environment has become increasingly loud and partisan over time, and this naturally polarizes opinions more than in the past.

• The Republican Party has simply become more radicalized over the past decade or so.

• In the past, liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats acted as natural brakes on viewing everything through a purely partisan lens. But party and ideology have been converging for decades, and this naturally makes every issue more partisan.