The power of Trump (and PID)

Great column from Thomas Edsall taking a deep dive into some really interesting recent political science research.  So, we know that Trump supporters will stick with him when he is blatantly racist, when he brags about groping women, when he is breathtakingly incompetent, (probably) if he actually shot someone on 5th Avenue, but what if he openly advocated Democratic policy positions?

Well, the research from Jeremy Pope and Michael Barber shows that the more you identify as Republican, the more you will follow along with Trump.  Edsall:

Many Republican voters, including self-identified strong conservatives, are ready and willing to shift to the left if they’re told that that’s the direction Trump is moving.

Michael Barber and Jeremy C. Pope, political scientists at Brigham Young University, reported in their recent paper “Does Party Trump Ideology? Disentangling Party and Ideology in America,” that many Republican voters are:

malleable to the point of innocence, and self-reported expressions of ideological fealty are quickly abandoned for policies that — once endorsed by a well-known party leader — run contrary to that expressed ideology.

Those most willing to adjust their positions on ten issues ranging from abortion to guns to taxes are firm Republicans, Trump loyalists, self-identified conservatives and low information Republicans.

The Barber-Pope study suggests that for many Republicans partisan identification is more a tribal affiliation than an ideological commitment.

Many partisans are, in effect, more aligned with the leader of their party than with the principles of the party. (Although Barber and Pope confined their study to Republicans, they note that Democrats may “react in similar ways given the right set of circumstances.”)

What I thought was particularly interesting (in the linked paper, but not shown in Edsall’s piece) was the fact that the Trump effect was much more potent than “Republicans in Congress” on bringing GOP voters to a more liberal position.

And some more (depressing) insight:

I asked both Barber and Pope of Brigham Young what their thoughts on American politics are now that Trump has been in office eight months.

Pope argued in an email that there has been too much emphasis on polarization and not enough on partisanship.

While elites — elected officials and party activists — are ideologically polarized, the best the general public “can manage is a kind of tribal partisanship that does not really reflect the content of the elite discussion,” Pope wrote:

Citizens pick a team, but they don’t naturally think like the team leadership does. And when Trump tells Republicans to think in a new way, lots of people happily adopt that new position because they were never that committed to the old ideas anyway. They’re just committed to the label.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate, in Pope’s view, are struggling to come to terms with a hard truth: that much of the Republican electorate

is not really interested in the conservative project as expressed by Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell or the Freedom Caucus. They are hostile to immigrants and rather nationalist in outlook, but not consistently market-oriented or libertarian in their thinking the way that some Republican elites continue to be.

In a separate email, Barber wrote that the commonplace phrase “all politics is identity politics” is a good description “of the state of the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party to a degree.”

He noted that a large corporate tax cut “isn’t really an ideological priority for much of the rank and file” of the Republican Party, but “if it means that their side has ‘won’, then they are in favor of it. More broadly, I think it shows us that teamsmanship is much more important than any particular policy agenda.” …

Third, and most significant, if the Barber-Pope, Broockman-Daniels and Achen-Bartels conclusions are right, American politics is less a competition of ideas and more a struggle between two teams.

In other words, insofar as elections have become primal struggles, and political competition has devolved into an atavistic spectacle, the prospect for a return to a politics of compromise and consensus approaches zero, no matter what temporary accommodations professional politicians make.

Ugh.  It’s almost as if we are stuck in a doom-loop.

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