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Republicans more interested in ideological purity than Democrats

Political Wire flags an interesting result in the latest CNN poll:

"The poll indicates that a slight majority, 51%, of Republicans would prefer to see the GOP in their area nominate candidates who agree with them on all the major the issues even if they have a poor chance of beating the Democratic candidate. Forty-three percent of Republicans say they would rather have candidates with whom they don't agree on all the important issues but who can beat the Democrats."

In constrast, Democrats polled "seemed to place a slightly higher priority on electoral victory: 58% say that they would like their party to nominate candidates who can beat Republicans, even if they don't agree with those candidates on all the issues."

It would be interesting to see whether anyone asked this question when Democrats were in the minority and, if so, whether the numbers flipped. Is this a feature of the Republican Party or a feature of the party that's out of power?

By Ezra Klein  |  November 18, 2009; 11:03 AM ET
Categories:  Polls  
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Democrats by and large are interested in governance and want to win elections so they can enact policies that they think will help make the country and life herein better for most people. GOPers arern't really interested in government as such, and only want to help cronies and stop Democrats (and Satan).

My recollection is that at least as regards the blogosphere, "more democrats" preceded the call for "better democrats" and now the latter is more important. During the real wilderness years (1981-1992, maybe even to 2008) the fight was over which vision (more progressive or DLC) would win elections. So purity was important, but always as a means to win elections. Politics as self-validation apart from winning power seems like a new phenomenon.

Posted by: Mimikatz | November 18, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't it seem like it would run the other way? If you're out of power, you need to get back in power so electoral wins are key. If you're in power but the heretics in your party aren't enacting your agenda, well, get rid of them, there are Congressional seats to spare and still hold the majority.

Posted by: _SP_ | November 18, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

*Doesn't it seem like it would run the other way? If you're out of power, you need to get back in power so electoral wins are key*

It's a two-stage process. When you first go out of power, you decide to eat your own and double-down on your purity. You see this now where Republicans say that they failed because they weren't conservative enough.

It's only after this process fails and the party remains out in the wilderness for a long time while the old guard dies and retires that the party finally agrees to become more ideologically flexible in order to get back in power. The Republicans are still in the purity stage: they need confirmable evidence that the "double down on crazy" strategy fails, in the form of a couple of losing presidential elections before they start to consider different ideas.

Posted by: constans | November 18, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Yep, those conservatives sure are idiots, trying to elect guys who would enact the policies they prefer. We're much savvier going with electable candidates who don't share our beliefs and who aren't committed to putting liberal principles of economic and social justice into practice when they're elected.

Posted by: redscott | November 18, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

"Slightly higher" says Political Wire. Since when is a swing from 43% to 58% slight?

I just read this morning that a MN state Senator who won his last reelection with 61% of the vote is hanging it up because the first vice-chair of his county Republican caucus is leading a charge to oust him in the primary (the first vice-chair proudly said "I'm a conservative first and a Republican second" which IMO means he shouldn't even be understudy to the chair, but anyway).

This multi-term, locally popular incumbent veterinarian and farmer's apostasy involves voting for a modest gas tax that virtually everyone has forgotten about in the past few years of very volatile pump prices.

But out he goes. And we'll either get a rigid ideologue in a minority party who can't deliver for his district, or a Democrat.

The lessons of NY 23 are falling on deaf ears around these corn fields.

Posted by: RalfW | November 18, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Somewhere, Joe Lieberman is shaking his head.

Posted by: tomtildrum | November 18, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

simple explanation, a minority of democrats are self-identified liberals, with a plural majority of moderates. a marginal, but absolute, majority of republicans self-identify as conservatives.

Posted by: razibk | November 18, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

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