The Corner

In Medias Res

I have no idea which way the congressional Republicans will eventually fall in the current shutdown/budget battle/debt-limit struggle — if past is prologue, after a lot of barking they will do their usual el foldo act, then congratulate themselves for having “reached across the aisle” and “come to an agreement for the American people” — but I do know this: The middle of a fight is no time to be taking, or following, opinion surveys. It should matter not at all that some recent polls show the GOP hardest hit:

While voters are angry with everyone in Washington, Republicans continue to see the brunt of the blame and growing disapproval, according to a new poll out Monday.

Seventy-four percent of Americans disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling negotiations over the budget, the Washington Post-ABC News poll shows. This is up four points from last week’s poll and up 11 points since the start of the shutdown.

Democrats also see a majority of Americans disapproving how they are handling the negotiations, but that number remained steady from last week’s poll at 61 percent. This is a smaller climb from 56 percent at the start of the shutdown.

Republicans are also struggling with support from within their own party. The Washington Post reports that 49 percent of self-identified Republicans approve and 47 percent disapprove of the job Republican lawmakers are doing. Alternatively, more than six in 10 Democrats approve of the job Democratic members are doing.

Pretty scary, huh, kids? In fact, no. 

What these poll numbers, if accurate, show is that the GOP is currently in the midst of a civil war, in which the old party — call it the Bush wing of the party, a descendant of the old Rockefeller Republicans — is slowly being replaced by the Cruz/Paul/Lee wing of the party, which is fueled and borne aloft by the Tea Party. Or, to put it bluntly, the party of losers and accommodationists (Rockefeller, Ford, Bush I, McCain, Romney) and bare winners (Bush II), is collapsing as its pretense to being an opposition party is exposed for the fraud it always was.

One of the reasons Bush II drove the Left so crazy was not that he was their scourge, but that he was so much like them. It frustrated them to have a “compassionate” (read: Big Government) conservative in the White House when they might have had the real thing. John Kerry, the Winter Soldier and 16-week war hero, was their first real stab in the right direction, but it was not until the nomination and election of Barack Obama that they found the perfect candidate to represent everything they really stand for.

Now the GOP is, however fitfully, going through the same process — one that, it should be noted, took the Democrats from 1972 to 2008 to fully effect. Nobody said this was going to be easy. But unless and until the Republicans finally cast off the Bush-McCain wing of the party, Americans will continue to have an echo, not a choice. 

Michael Walsh — Mr. Walsh is the author of the novels Hostile Intent and Early Warning and, writing as frequent NRO contributor David Kahane, Rules for Radical Conservatives.


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