Explaining the House Republicans

A recent poll provides some insight into congressional behavior.

The Economist’s Democracy in America blogs points to a point that show that Red means recalcitrant.  Specifically, the poll notes that Republicans tend to prefer that their representatives stick to principle, while Democratics tend to prefer compromise:

 

 

(The question represented above was part of poll that can be found here [PDF]).

The graph is quite striking, as the two parties are a mirror image of one another.  Further, it is reflective of the general commentary on this topic.  The generally pro-Democratic commentators have been marked by a desire to see compromise, with a minority upset that Obama and Reid aren’t sticking to their guns on cuts.  Likewise, the vast majority of pro-Republican commentators have been in favor of sticking to principles and eschewing compromise with a minority thinking that compromise was needed.

In terms of explaining the behavior of Republicans in the House, this tracks with what Chris Lawrence was discussing yesterday:

Political scientist David Mayhew once wrote that members of Congress are “single-minded seekers of re-election”; in other words, if we want to understand Congress, we need to understand the electoral incentives that members face.

If the constituents who are responsible for your re-election don’t want compromise (i.e., primary voters in particular), then it stands to reason that a given legislator will not want to compromise.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Anonne says:

    “Batshit Crazy” seems to do the trick.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Inflexibility and stupidity go hand in hand.

  3. Terrye says:

    I wonder about these polls. In recent weeks, I have seen polls that say something else. In fact, Pew and Gallup both had polls out that stated the majority of rank and file Republicans wanted their leaders to make a deal to avoid a default. In fact, I think that some of the people who are obviously pandering, such as Lindsay Graham and Orrin Hatch, might come to regret that. I doubt if it will help them with the Tea Party and the rest of the party is no more interested in default than anyone else.

  4. There was a lot of people who, long before Obama was elected, spent a lot of time fighting to reduce government spending. As I’ve pointed out repetedly, the tea party people were not among of them. This poll once again underlines that the spending issue is all posturing to them. They don’t really care if they actually get anything done, they’re just posers who only care about making sure everyone can see them doing the superior dance.

  5. Herb says:

    Those who don’t bend will surely break.

  6. bandit says:

    Inflexibility and stupidity go hand in hand.

    along with juvenile name calling.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    Oh, it’s not name calling: it’s description.

    The far right are stupid people. Republicans used to just be boring, unimaginative but steady folks. Necessary, really.

    But now the party has been co-opted by people whose one distinctive characteristic is stupidity. Hannity level stupid. Glen Beck level stupid. Send money to TV preachers level stupid. Think it would be fun to default for the first time in history level stupid. Cretins. Or imbeciles, if you prefer.

    But definitely stupid.

  8. @michael reynolds:

    Hannity level stupid. Glen Beck level stupid.

    Considering that Hannity and Beck have both made themselves millionaries off of the tea party, I’m not sure you can describe either as particularly stupid. Shameless, no doubt, but not stupid.

  9. Ron Beasley says:

    @Stormy Dragon: You are right – Beck is very successful snake oil salesman who has admitted that he doesn’t believe and of the poison he preaches. Hannity is rich but he is a bobble head doll that simply repeats Right wing talking points and I really don’t think he’s very bright.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    …along with juvenile name calling.

    Something you’re quite knowledgeable about, as you’ve done that yourself…

  11. Anonne says:

    Hannity and Beck are opportunists. They may not be stupid per se, but the people that give them money sure as hell are.

  12. ratufa says:

    Polls about general inclinations are somewhat interesting but usually not very indicative of how voters react to specific situations. For example, voters may be very much in favor of major cuts to government spending in general, but ask them about specific items, such as Defense or Medicare, and opinions quickly change.

    Of course, that assumes that voters know enough to go from a general principle (“stand firm!”) to the specific consequences (big cuts in programs they care about). But, unlike cases where Congress explicitly votes to cut specific programs, the exact cuts forced by a failure to raise the debt ceiling are not specified in advance. This is to the advantage of Republicans, who are thus not forced to take responsibility for cutting spending on politically popular programs nor forced to discuss the trade-offs between cutting corporate tax loopholes and gutting Medicaid or cutting food stamps.

  13. @ratufa: Agreed: there is a huge disconnect between vague principles like “no compromise!” and the concrete reality of policy-making.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    Actually, I think Hannity is personally stupid. Doocey is clearly an imbecile as is Gretchen Carlson. I think Beck is mentally unbalanced, so it’s hard to judge IQ.

    O’Reilly is a smart guy, so is Limbaugh, but my point was more about their true believers. Those are the idiots.

    If it makes you any happier, I think Ed Schultz is not a bright man, either. Of the lefty talking heads Olbermann is smart but a borderline personality. Maddow is smart.

  15. @michael reynolds:

    I think Beck is mentally unbalanced, so it’s hard to judge IQ.

    Actually, I can judge. I was a big fan of Beck’s radio show back before he went big nationally, so I know what he was like before he adopted his current persona, so at least in his case I can say for sure that it’s ALL an act. Even the mental imbalance is an act. It’s sad for me because it used to be a great show. Intelligent, funny, right leaning but not a partisan water carrier. Now I find him completely unlistenable.

    Although I must admit his audience is magnitudes larger than it was then, so apparently there’s far more people who want crazy end of the world guy then people like me.

  16. Ron Beasley says:

    @Stormy Dragon: You are right once again. As I said Beck is the ultimate snake oil salesman who goes where the money is.

  17. john personna says:

    I think I remember an old-time OTB post, about how “pragmatism” was a dirty word.

  18. PJ says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Doocey is clearly an imbecile as is Gretchen Carlson.

    There was a TDS bit in 2009 about Gretchen Carlson dumbing it down.
    Carlson actually graduated cum laude from Stanford University.

  19. Hey Norm says:

    Another day or two and Obama will pull the trigger on the 14th…then the House will start impeachment proceedings…which is all they have really wanted since the scary black man took office.
    Should be fun to watch.

  20. Eric Florack says:

    while Democratics tend to prefer compromise:

    Sorry, no sale. Your claim is only half correct.
    Democrats only “compromise” when they are not in power.

  21. Hey Norm says:

    Funny Eric…The Dems agreed toraise the Debt Ceiling 7 times while Bush 43 was President…and didn’t once threaten to crash the world economy.
    Do the Cheetos stain your keyboard? Or do the nurses make you wear a bib?

  22. Hey Norm says:

    Also Eric…the Dems worked with Reagan to strengthen Social Security….which you are drawing, correct…and they worked with Bush 41 and produced a very effective deficit legislation. For which he was summarily fired by the fiscal frauds in the so-called Republican Party.
    Dems and Republicans used to work for the good of the nation. Now the so-called Republicans work for Dick Armey and the Koch Bros.

  23. Pete says:

    @Hey Norm: C’mon Norm, give the Koch Bros. excuse a break. You normally make cogent arguments, but then you put on your pointy hat, climb in your crib, and utter inane assertions about the Koch Bros. Where do you get that? from Think Progress? The Land of Oz of the Left.

  24. Eric Florack says:

    Funny Eric…The Dems agreed toraise the Debt Ceiling 7 times while Bush 43 was President…and didn’t once threaten to crash the world economy.

    True. But each was a step closer to the crisis we find ourselves in. And yes, it is a crisis. Do you suppose that never ending spending is particularly ‘adult’?

    And I say again, Bush was no conservatve, but at best a centrist. He was better than the alternatives offered at each of his elections, but that does not make him anywhere near ideal.

    So much for your taunt. Now, do you have anything of value to offer?

  25. anjin-san says:

    And yes, it is a crisis.

    It’s also a crisis when someone slashes their wrists. A self-inflicted one. This is wholly unnecessary. The people who have cooked this crisis up do not seem to understand that events sometimes spin out of control – that once a line is crossed you cannot always simply walk it back.

  26. Ron Beasley says:

    What we are seeing here is that the Republican Party has been taken over by a group that is still fighting the Civil War. Perhaps it should now be called the Confederate Party. Of course the irony is many of them are feeding at the public trough via Social Security and Medicare and probably won’t be too pleased when their benefits are reduced. No more scooters and oxygen tanks courtesy of Medicare.

  27. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    And I say again, Bush was no conservatve, but at best a centrist.

    And to that I say, (blank) you. Conservatives don’t get to wash their hands of the worst president of the modern era. They embraced W, at worst; enabled him, at best. He’s yours – own up to him.

  28. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Shorter Eric: Conservatism cannot fail; it can only be failed.

  29. jan says:

    Speaking of ‘compromise,’ it appears that one has tentatively been struck:

    Debt ceiling increase of up to $2.8 trillion
    Spending cuts of roughly $1 trillion
    Vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment
    Special committee to recommend cuts of $1.8 trillion (or whatever it takes to add up to the total of the debt ceiling increase)
    Committee must make recommendations before Thanksgiving recess
    If Congress does not approve those cuts by late December, automatic across-the-board cuts go into effect, including cuts to Defense and Medicare.

  30. jan says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy:

    And to that I say, (blank) you. Conservatives don’t get to wash their hands of the worst president of the modern era. They embraced W, at worst; enabled him, at best. He’s yours – own up to him.

    Obama will trump Bush in the ‘worst president’ category. He’s almost there, after less than three years of being in office.

    Although, frankly, with people embracing such opposite POVs these days, it would be almost impossible for any human being to be a beloved president in this unforgiving and demanding environment.

  31. anjin-san says:

    Obama will trump Bush in the ‘worst president’ category

    Certainly those who have outsourced their thinking to Fox News think so.

  32. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @jan: In the past few minutes, I’ve read two blog posts of this news saying:
    1.The GOP caved
    2. Obama caved.

  33. jan says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy:

    There are so many odds and ends going around. It’s difficult to sort it all out, that’s for sure! Maybe if it is considered that both the dems and reps ‘caved’, then something may have been accomplished.

    Anjin — most of the month I don’t have any cable, and don’t watch TV much anyway. So, althought I do watch both FOX and CNN, I am not a regular viewer.

  34. jan says:

    These observations, from a Boston Harold opinion piece, are what some here have been attempting to articulate about the current debt debate. While it has been a procedural event in the past, our debt circumstances have radically changed, at least in the minds of many. And, using the same old process of continuing to raise something that has grown so gigantic and unsustainable is now considered not only antiquated thinking, but also hazardous for the fiscal health of this country.

    There ought to be some understanding that, when the nation’s debt reaches a high of $14.3 trillion, the old “routine” is no longer acceptable —that trillion-dollar increases in the nation’s borrowing limit ought not be a ho-hum affair. And if nothing else, this debate has called attention to the Beltway logic that has made it seem this way.

    ‘Routine’ too risky….

  35. Anonne says:

    @jan:
    This whole debate is a pile of pants.

    The debt limit is about PAST spending, not future spending. The budget is about future spending. Raising the debt limit is should be purely procedural, to acknowledge that Congress didn’t make enough provisions for revenue to account for all the expenditures. Period.

    Congress, you passed laws that required more money than you collected, therefore raise the debt ceiling to account for the payments of borrowed funds. It is wholly irresponsible to conflate future spending with payment of the debts you already incurred (because you wouldn’t increase or otherwise reform taxes). If you want to constrain future spending, do it during the budget process. Do not jeopardize the economic recovery and the full faith and credit of the United States, the richest country in the world, because of some vocal nincompoops who can’t add. It does not matter that you cannot agree on spending cuts right now; you don’t have to discuss spending now. You just need to allow the President to pay the bills you ran up by raising the debt limit.

  36. Hey Norm says:

    @ Eric…
    1) No…it is a made up crisis. There is a demand crisis. There is not a debt crisis. There is a medium to long term debt problem…which would be greatly alleviated by solving the demand crisis.
    2). It was Republicans who spent the money. Our deficit/debt problem going forward is mostly due to Republican policies and obligations.

  37. Hey Norm says:

    Also Eric…
    Invading another country for no reason is not centrist. Giving tax cuts to the rich is not centrist. Expanding entitlements in a way that benefits big pharma is not centrist. Certainly not paying for any of those things is not centrist.

  38. Hey Norm says:

    @ Pete…
    The Tea Party is the problem in the House. Dick Armey and the Koch Bros fund and organize the Tea Party. Ipso facto…

  39. Hey Norm says:

    And while I’m at it…
    None of this BS going on in Washington right now solves anything. If anything cutting spending will only make things worse.
    Solving the demand crisis positively affects the debt problem. All debt reduction bills currently being discussed negatively affect the demand crisis.
    This is the massive damage the Tea Party is doing to the country.

  40. Eric Florack says:

    @anjin-san:

    It’s also a crisis when someone slashes their wrists. A self-inflicted one. This is wholly unnecessary. The people who have cooked this crisis up do not seem to understand that events sometimes spin out of control – that once a line is crossed you cannot always simply walk it back.

    I suggest that if that is in fact the case, that it’s a meta races, then it was made up by the democrats, who recognize that they would not be able to slip a tax increase by the American public and any other way. Even with that as a crutch, it’s very questionable as to whether they’d survive any tax increases at the next election I suspect they will not.

    I also suggest that arrests were slipped by the amount of spending that we’ve been doing of late. What we are now engaged in as an argument as to whether not we can hide the consequences of that spending. We cannot.

    The fact is, we can either face cuts now, or after the default. This economy will not withstand tax increases. You increased taxes, you lower tax revenue. Not to mention you manage to kill off the economy, smack dab in the middle of a recession. Interestingly enough, the democrats have not offered cuts. What they’ve offered is tax increases. You may recall Obama saying you don’t raise taxes in the middle of a recession?

    In August 2009, on a visit to Elkhart, Indiana to tout his stimulus plan, Obama sat down for an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, and was conveyed a simple request from Elkhart resident Scott Ferguson: “Explain how raising taxes on anyone during a deep recession is going to help with the economy.”

    Obama agreed with Ferguson’s premise – raising taxes in a recession is a bad idea. “First of all, he’s right. Normally, you don’t raise taxes in a recession, which is why we haven’t and why we’ve instead cut taxes. So I guess what I’d say to Scott is – his economics are right. You don’t raise taxes in a recession. We haven’t raised taxes in a recession.”

    But that’s exactly what you and the remainder of the left are proposing raising taxes. You know as well as I do, or you should, the outcome of that scenario.

    What we have, is suspending problem. It’s time the credit cards were cut up. And yes, it is so immature of us to write a blank check to Obama to continue spending us into oblivion, huh?
    Get real.

  41. Eric Florack says:

    What we are seeing here is that the Republican Party has been taken over by a group that is still fighting the Civil War.

    Ah, yes, here we go.

  42. Eric Florack says:

    The Tea Party is the problem in the House.

    Yes, indeed, the problem is people in Congress doing what they were elected to do.Damned them, anyway, for actually doing the will of the people who elected them, and for not understanding that more of the same kind of go long to get along nonsense that got us into this thing in the first place, will get us out of it.

    Ira Stoll made a comment the other day, that maybe you’ll understand, but I tend to doubt it:

    …….. the bottom line is that the federal government is spending about double what it was at the end of the Clinton administration. For all the clamor on the left to bring back the Clinton-era top tax rates, there are few, if any, politicians in Washington talking about bringing back the Clinton-era spending levels.

    And the spending is where the problem is. Period.

  43. Eric Florack says:

    Invading another country for no reason is not centrist.

    SO, Obama’s a right-winger? You know, Libya?

    Oops, got caught with your jerking knee again, huh?

    Come back when you have the ability to process actual thought.

  44. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    We invaded Libya?

    In the same way we “invaded” the Balkans, I suppose.

  45. jan says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Good points Eric.

    The spending curve under Bush was bad enough. However, under Obama it’s staggering!

    I know Paul Krugman keeps saying the problem was we didn’t spend enough; the stimulus should have been larger! But, government simply borrowing money to pay workers for road projects does not grow an economy. Sure, it puts money into the pockets of people (as Krugman goes on to say), so they can be good little consumers, buying the widgets people produce. However, as we saw in the Cash for Clunkers and the Housing Programs, once the giveaways ended, not only did consumer spending abruptly drop off, but you also witnessed worse auto and housing sales following these subsidy type programs. An economy cannot grow and thrive without the engine of private sector business. You can add all the free money you want, and it will be nothing but kindling is to a fire —> starting it but not sustaining it without long term incentives voluntarily creating the help and cooperation of small and large business which will generate more revenues.

  46. John Weiss says:

    @Eric Florack: Is it a coincidence that the fifties, arguably the most prosperous time in US history, also taxed the wealthy at around 90%?

  47. Eric Florack says:

    @John Weiss: The effects of that were being felt by the time JFK was in office, which is why among the frst thing he did was lower that rate rather dramatically.

  48. Eric Florack says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: Just noticed this:

    . Conservatives don’t get to wash their hands of the worst president of the modern era. They embraced W, at worst; enabled him, at best. He’s yours – own up to him.

    The fact is, Bush, in both elections, was far better than the alternative. Just as John McCain would have been better than Obama. Not by much, in that latter case, but enough to make a very positive difference.

  49. Eric Florack says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    @ratufa: Agreed: there is a huge disconnect between vague principles like “no compromise!” and the concrete reality of policy-making.

    So you think the Democrats would be talking at all about cuts absent the hard line position of the tea party? It undeniably has very solid and I think positive effects on the process.

  50. ratufa says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Yes, indeed, the problem is people in Congress doing what they were elected to do.Damned them, anyway, for actually doing the will of the people who elected them,

    You are right. The Republicans in Congress were elected to make big cuts in spending by a public that, by a large majority, doesn’t want cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Defense, and various other popular programs which will need to be cut in order to make the big spending cuts they want. So, the people in Congress are using the debt limit vote to indirectly force those cuts without having to take responsibility for them.

  51. ratufa says:

    @Eric Florack:

    So you think the Democrats would be talking at all about cuts absent the hard line position of the tea party? It undeniably has very solid and I think positive effects on the process.

    As I responded to jan in another thread:

    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/cutting-through-the-talking-points/#comment-1427966

  52. @Eric Florack:

    Yes, indeed, the problem is people in Congress doing what they were elected to do.Damned them, anyway, for actually doing the will of the people who elected them,

    I am fairly certain that no one elected them to create a fact financial crisis and hold the economy hostage to demands that are utterly nonviable.

  53. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    However, as we saw in the Cash for Clunkers and the Housing Programs, once the giveaways ended, not only did consumer spending abruptly drop off, but you also witnessed worse auto and housing sales following these subsidy type programs. An economy cannot grow and thrive without the engine of private sector business.

    See, this is why is few people take the Tea Party positions seriously. No one is disputing that society thrives from private sector business (or, more exactly, from requested goods and services). The stimulus was not created to grow the economy, it was created to offset decreased demand during a recession created by factors outside of the affected industries.

    Think of it like a car making a full stop during a traffic congestion: Due to the delay in reactions it takes much longer to get traffic going again when several cars have come to a stop than it takes if the whole congestion has been still moving (even if it’s at a slow pace).

    The stimulus was badly crafted to attain this goal. It was much smaller than the contraction in the private sector, it was offset by decreased spending in the states (ngating the whole point) and it was badly targeted (too little to those who were most likely to spend; too little money released immediately to “shovel-ready” projects). Obviously it couldn’t get the results aimed for.

    The point of stimulus is to “flatten the wave”: increase during recession, decrease during recovery.

    Housing and cash for clunkers have little to do with this basic idea. As programs targeted to very small sectors comprised of lasting goods they were (afaik) not created to buoy the economy as a whole. It was pretty clear from the onset that they would have large displacement effects. If you want stimulus, you need a lot of people buying goods that are either perishable or quickly obsolete. Any form of “investment”, be it savings, cars, or houses will create significant distortions.

  54. mattb says:

    So you think the Democrats would be talking at all about cuts absent the hard line position of the tea party? It undeniably has very solid and I think positive effects on the process.

    The problem with this line of thought is that you’ve already reduced things to a binary.

    Yes, the actions of tea party aligned members of the house has led to large concessions.

    However, all of that good is lost if they are incapable of sealing the deal with a necessary compromise.

    To pretend that the two things — hard bargaining and never compromising — can only exist together is foolish.

    Some medicine is necessary to cure the patient, but too much kills the patient. We have yet to see if the tea party is capable of the necessary moderation to govern.

  55. An Interested Party says:

    Once again we see people whining that we absolutely cannot have tax cuts as that will hurt the economy, but spending cuts won’t, eh? I guess people who agree with this line of thinking believe that the spending cuts will only affect deadbeats who suck at the government teat…oh wait, this is Eric and Jan that I am talking about…of course they believe that…

  56. jan says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Once again we see people whining that we absolutely cannot have tax cuts as that will hurt the economy, but spending cuts won’t, eh?

    Tax cuts hurting the economy???? I never said that. Tax cuts would be fine with me, if you also included some tax reform where various tax loopholes were closed.

    I actually wouldn’t mind either, that if taxes went up that those who would be paying more taxes could stipulate that these monies could only be applied to lowering the deficit, rather than just going into the general fund for more ‘investment’ spending.

  57. An Interested Party says:

    Pardon me, I meant tax increases…

  58. Eric Florack says:

    @An Interested Party:

    I guess people who agree with this line of thinking believe that the spending cuts will only affect deadbeats who suck at the government teat…oh wait, this is Eric and Jan that I am talking about…of course they believe that…

    WIll spending cuts hurt? IN the end, sure. But tax increases will hurt more. Government isn’t the solution, it’s the PROBLEM. Tax increases only serve to grow government. I’m sure that there are some, such as yourself that feel a nanny state to be the ultimate situation. Myself, I prefer freedom… both the good and bad aspects of it.

  59. Eric Florack says:

    The problem with this line of thought is that you’ve already reduced things to a binary.

    Because, in the end, that’s what it is.

    However, all of that good is lost if they are incapable of sealing the deal with a necessary compromise.

    No. Where all of it is lost is if they compromise at all. We got to this point with compromise. More of it will solve nothing, but rather will further the problem.

  60. Eric Florack says:

    I am fairly certain that no one elected them to create a fact financial crisis and hold the economy hostage to demands that are utterly nonviable.

    The cirisis already existed, in the form of overly large spending. T Hey were sent to stop the spending, and to shrink government. That, they are doing.

  61. Eric Florack says:

    You are right. The Republicans in Congress were elected to make big cuts in spending by a public that, by a large majority, doesn’t want cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Defense, and various other popular programs which will need to be cut in order to make the big spending cuts they want. So, the people in Congress are using the debt limit vote to indirectly force those cuts without having to take responsibility for them.

    No. THe social programs as you mention are but a small portion of the spending in question.
    And I don’t see a huge outcry for cuts in defense. ((Funny how the only one you mention that is actually a part of the constitution is defense… and happens to be the only program that Democrats have ever actually cut.)

  62. jan says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Fraudian slip, perhaps?

  63. anjin-san says:

    Bithead is on a roll. The tea party’s very own andrei gromyko. Well, not really. Gromyko was a dogmatic party fanatic, but he actually mattered….

  64. An Interested Party says:

    Fraudian slip, perhaps?

    Nah, probably just been reading too many right-wing talking points for too long…