Republicans have discovered that they do not need popular policy proposals in order to maintain their grip on power in America.
"After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee published what became known as the “GOP autopsy report,” an effort to identify and address the party’s ongoing political weaknesses. But eight years later, after losing another close race, the GOP appears wholly uninterested in reviewing or reforming its agenda. In fact, despite capturing the presidency, the Democratic Party has been far more interested in developing an attractive issue agenda," Daniel Cox reported for 538 on Tuesday under the headline, "Why The Republican Party Isn't Concerned With Popularity."
Despite the unpopularity of the GOP's policies, Republicans are still well-positioned heading into the 2022 midterms.
"But the biggest reason why the GOP may not be pushing more popular policies is that recent history suggests it’s unnecessary. Former President Trump’s startling 2016 election victory showed that an unpopular candidate with little interest in public policy can still win," the report noted. "The current structure of the Electoral College and the U.S. Senate also allows Republican candidates wider discretion in eschewing popular legislation. For instance, former FiveThirtyEight reporter Perry Bacon Jr. argued last March that the GOP’s structural advantages over the Democratic Party has allowed legislators to pursue more conservative policies than the average voter prefers."
The report also noted the role partisan gerrymandering plays in insulating Republicans from voters. But while partisan identity is playing a larger role than issues, the report noted one area where that might not be true.
"There is one crucial caveat to all of this. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 opinion that established a constitutional right to abortion, the issue of abortion may provide the most critical test to the GOP’s ability to defy political gravity yet. Even if Americans have conflicting views on abortion, few believe it should be completely illegal. Which is why a ruling that overturned Roe would put tremendous pressure on Republican elected officials to fully embrace the most extreme position — the complete illegality of abortion. It would almost certainly become a campaign issue in 2022, and Republican elected officials would be forced to defend a position that is broadly unpopular," the report noted.
Read the full report.