Within hours of Arlen Specter’s Democrat defection last Tuesday, the press pronounced the Republican Party dead.
All three broadcast evening news programs told their viewers that Specter was forced out by the right-wing of the GOP, with NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell calling the moment “a seismic shift.”
By Noel Sheppard
Associate Editor, Newsbusters.org
Her colleague Chuck Todd said on the following morning’s “Today” show, “[F]or the Republican Party it’s devastating, not just to their hopes of slowing President Obama’s agenda in Congress, but for what it says about the future of the GOP.”
Two days later, Newsweek’s Evan Thomas proclaimed on PBS’s “Inside Washington”: “I don’t think the Republicans would appreciate the comparison, but they’re exactly like the Labor Party in England in the 1970s. They’re letting their extremists take them straight down.”
But the critical diagnoses didn’t just come from liberal media members. Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan said in a Wall Street Journal piece Saturday, “In the party now there is too much ferocity, and bloody-mindedness.”
On the following day’s “Meet the Press,” former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough told David Gregory, “We have not been conservative as a party, we’ve been radical.”
Yet, all this hand-wringing ignored some realities about the current American ethos that have absolutely nothing to do with Specter’s act of self-preservation, for on the same day the senior Senator from Pennsylvania announced his latest strategic metamorphosis, Rasmussen Reports revealed Republicans leading Democrats in a generic tracking poll of the 2010 Congressional elections.
In something practically out of a Marx Brothers movie, while the press performed last rites over the GOP’s supposedly rotting corpse, 41 percent of Rasmussen’s respondents said they’d vote for their district’s Republican candidate as opposed to 38 percent backing an unnamed Democrat.
According to Rasmussen, “Democrats are currently at their lowest level of support in the past year while Republicans are at the high water mark.”
Sound like the GOP is dead to you?
Further evidence of the premature nature of last week’s post mortems came Thursday when the Pew Research Center released findings of its must recent survey concerning the nation’s views on abortion and gun control.
Quite contrary to the conventional wisdom that Obama’s election and Specter’s defection signaled an end to conservatism, Pew, for the first time in its history, found almost as many Americans believing it’s more important to protect gun rights than legislate stricter laws over such (45 percent to 49 percent respectively).
This represented – using Kelly O’Donnell’s words! – a seismic shift, for a year ago 58 percent felt controlling gun ownership was more important, while only 37 percent took the NRA’s view.
Similar changes in the nation’s attitude towards abortion were identified by Pew as the number saying it should be legal in all or most cases now stands at 46 percent. This was down from 54 percent last August, and represented the first time since at least the mid-’90s that such responses weren’t in the majority.