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The cracks in the GOP are growing into gaping holes

The Republican Party was once a traditionalist institution that stood for small government, low taxes and conservative social policies. But today’s GOP is a shell of its former self. 

The GOP of 2023 is embroiled in chaos and beset by internal strife. Many members who have been elevated to senior positions within the party are not concerned with governing, only with advancing their political agenda and causing disruption for disruption’s sake.

This is not conjecture, rather, it is the view of a sizable share of the American electorate, including many voters who self-identify as Republicans, according to new polling conducted by Schoen Cooperman Research. 

Registered voters nationwide believe that the Republican majority in the U.S. House is more focused on pursuing investigations of President Biden and the Democratic Party (49 percent) rather than on passing legislation to address major issues (35 percent). Notably, 4 in 10 Republican voters think that their own party is more focused on investigating Biden and Democrats (41 percent) than on advancing real reforms (47 percent).

There is also a sense among both national voters and Republican voters that the highest-ranking GOP official, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), is ineffective and beholden to the far-right. 

Earlier this month, McCarthy was elected Speaker of the House in a pyrrhic victory after an embarrassing four-day-long fiasco and 15 rounds of voting. McCarthy struck a corrupt bargain with the far-right House Freedom Caucus that essentially gives these extremists veto authority over his speakership along with key leadership positions, rendering him essentially powerless. 

As a result, only 1 in 5 (21 percent) Republican voters — and a slightly smaller share of the national electorate (16 percent) — believe McCarthy will be a “very effective” Speaker of the House. 

Further, a majority of voters nationwide (53 percent) and a plurality of Republican voters (46 percent) agree that “Kevin McCarthy conceded too much ground to the conservative House Freedom Caucus in order to be elected as Speaker, leaving him with little actual authority and beholden to the far-right.” Remarkably, just one-quarter (27 percent) of Republican respondents in our poll disagreed with this statement. 

When pressed further on their views of intraparty politics, GOP voters are relatively split on the question of whether McCarthy should’ve been elected speaker (40 percent) or if it should have been someone else (37 percent). Further, less than one-half (46 percent) of this group believes that the fight McCarthy underwent won’t impact his authority, while more than one-third (35 percent) say it indicates McCarthy doesn’t have the full support of his party and thus won’t be able to get things done. 

Just weeks into his tenure, a clearly weakened McCarthy is already struggling to articulate — let alone advance — a Republican plan for raising the debt ceiling. This is one of the most pressing matters facing Congress, as the United States is months away from defaulting on its debt, which would trigger catastrophic consequences for the world economy. 

The current House Republican caucus is adamant about using spending cuts as a bargaining chip for raising the county’s borrowing limit but has no unified plan for which programs it wants to be cut and no strategy for actual debt reduction. 

Last year, McCarthy signaled that House Republicans could take an extreme route and demand cuts to programs, potentially including Social Security and Medicare, in order to raise the debt limit — a scenario that nearly two-thirds of voters (63 percent), including 54 percent of Republican voters, would disapprove of, according to our poll. In an interview with CBS’s “Face The Nation” on Sunday, McCarthy reversed this position and said cuts to Social Security and Medicare are “off the table.”

Occurring alongside the intraparty debt ceiling debacle, the Republican National Committee just concluded a bitter contest to elect the organization’s next chair. 

Incumbent Ronna McDaniel, who was hand-picked by former president Donald Trump, faced a formidable challenge from Harmeet Dhillon, a California lawyer who positioned herself as being able to offer new leadership for the GOP, which has suffered a string of defeats in recent elections.  

Unlike the fight McCarthy endured to become Speaker, the race for RNC chair wasn’t necessarily a battle between the far-right and the establishment, per se. And even though McDaniel was ultimately reelected, the final vote total and Dhillon’s ability to make this race competitive by promoting herself as a ‘change’ candidate reflects the polarization and division that exists inside the GOP. 

While The Democratic Party has at times appeared hopelessly divided and bogged down by intraparty feuds, The Republican Party is facing a once-in-a-generation reckoning, as cracks in its coalition are turning into gaping holes, posing real risks to the party’s future electability. 

Douglas E. Schoen and Carly Cooperman are pollsters and partners with the public opinion company Schoen Cooperman Research based in New York. They are co-authors of the book, “America: Unite or Die.” 

Tags Biden House Freedom Caucus House Speaker Kevin McCarthy House speaker vote Kevin McCarthy Medicare Politics of the United States raising the debt ceiling Ronna McDaniel Social Security

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