GOP ‘Party of No’ Gambit Backfires — Voter Approval of Republicans at an All-Time Low

From the moment Pres. Obama took office, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the rest of the GOP leadership in Congress have engaged in a high-risk, gridlock-on-steroids strategy — a level of obstructionism that is unparalleled in U.S. history, particularly including a record-breaking number of filibusters in the Senate.

How bad is it for congressional Republicans? They’re even lagging behind Sarah Palin, whose approval rate is just 29 percent.

Their “party of no” strategy has been effective in two ways. First, they have used obstructionism to weaken legislation to protect the profits of their corporate donors. They have done this by sucker-punching the president and the Democrats on every major bill — first by threatening to vote no unless the particulars of the legislation were changed to benefit corporations and then by voting resoundingly against the bill anyway, despite getting everything they demanded.

That second part — the lockstep voting, gridlock-on-steroids tactic — was intended to slow things down unnecessarily as a way to frustrate voters who, more than anything, wanted to see progress in solving the multiple crises the country is facing. This was an especially neat trick because attentive voters were surely aware that the crises were caused by these same Republican senators and House members rubberstamping the Bush anti-regulatory, anti middle-class agenda when they controlled Congress the last time.

Frustrating voters with gridlock is a tried-and-true tactic the party out of power can use to drive up the negatives of the party in power. It has always worked as a zero-sum game in our calcified two-party system. When voters’ approval of one party goes down, approval of the other party goes up.

But it hasn’t worked out that way this time. While the Republicans’ “party of no” strategy has been effective in poisoning the well — the Democrats’ negatives are way up — according to the new NBC/Wall St. Journal poll, the GOP’s uber-obstructionism appears to have backfired. Big time:

While Obama’s overall approval rating remains lukewarm at 47 percent, it’s still enviable to those on Capitol Hill.

A combined 60 percent say that this year’s Congress is either below average or one of the worst in history — the highest percentage in the history of the NBC/WSJ poll.

By comparison, 31 percent say it has been average, and only 6 percent believe it has been above average or one of the best.

In addition, a whopping 72 percent disapprove of Congress’ job.

The political parties don’t fare much better. Just 33 percent have a positive view of the Democratic Party, versus 44 percent who have a negative view.

As for the Republican Party, only 24 percent see it positively — the GOP’s lowest-ever rating in the poll — while 46 percent see it negatively.

And for the first time in the survey, the Tea Party movement has a net-negative rating, with 30 percent viewing it positively and 34 percent viewing it negatively.

How bad is it for congressional Republicans? At 24 percent, they’re even lagging behind Sarah Palin, whose approval rate is just 29 percent.

The Republicans’ uber-obstructionism may ultimately succeed — they need a net gain of 39 seats to take the House, and they are poised now to win between 30 and 50 seats in November, according to Charlie Cook, the nonpartisan analyst. The Senate is a little dicier but still doable.

So they take control of Congress next year. Then what? What we’ve heard about their plans for the country so far is all retrograde. They plan to issue a barrage of subpoenas to the White House, just as they did for eight years during the Clinton administration — including the latter part when they impeached the president at the same time that Bin Laden was planning the 9/11 attacks.

They have also signaled they will gum up their own agenda by the most time-consuming of all legislation — rewriting the 14th Amendment and then ratifying a new amendment, which usually takes years, if not decades. They also plan to waste weeks and months on committee hearings and the rest in order to repeal health care reform, knowing full well that the president will veto anything they pass.

And then there’s their plan to kill Social Security and Medicare while passing legislation to make Paris Hilton’s tax cut permanent — none of which is likely to please voters.

If that’s what happens, Republicans in Congress will probably be so unpopular in 2012 that it will make their 24 percent approval rate now look like a high point.


  • l duvall
    August 12, 2010 - 8:12 am | Permalink

    And the democan’ts continue to facilitate the “conservative” strategies.

  • August 12, 2010 - 10:50 am | Permalink

    The Tea Baggers are taking over the Repubs…what can you say? It is hard to attack people who have the brains of asparagus. Nobody facilitates the so-called conservative strategies born of prejudice and ignorance. The conservative/teabag formula is to scare the crap out of people so they can rule by fear. I will go with the Democrats any day of the week.

  • majii
    August 13, 2010 - 6:59 am | Permalink

    When it is possible for one member of the Senate to stop any legislation from being voted upon, and when you have a party that doesn’t allow its’ members to votes as individuals, you have massive gridlock. The republicans have filibustered more bills in the Senate under President Obama than at any time in recent history because they are p!$$ed off about not being in power and losing two national elections in 2006 and 2008. I wish I could have drawn a salary when I was working for not doing my job for 35 years, which is essentially what they have done for almost 2 years now. They behave like petulant children. Steve Benin recently compared their pride in promoting gridlock to Bart Simpson’s glee after pulling a childish prank. I don’t expect democrats and republicans to agree on everything, but I do expect them to realize that there are very serious problems in this country that need to be addressed. The republicans could probably convince voters to elect more of them if they spent more time working on developing effective policies than they do appearing on Fuchs Noose, attending “conventions” where they spout their special brand of BS, and meeting with lobbyists and Big Business. If we don’t approve of average citizens getting paid for doing nothing, I don’t think we should approve of republicans doing it either to the tune of $174,000 + benefits per member. It’s not being fiscally responsible, so imho, we’re wasting our tax dollars by keeping them in Congress.

  • August 13, 2010 - 9:41 am | Permalink

    I wish the crowing over the low GOP approval numbers would stop!

    Despite these low numbers (as even Jon Ponder points out in his own article prior to crowing himself), there is sufficient momentum for the GOP to reclaim power in the Congress. The only reason this is even possible is due to the poor performance of the Democrats. The fact that the Democrats appear oblivious to this only makes things more likely that the GOP will get enough votes to win in November no matter that they are poor stewards of the commonweal.

    The only way remaining to mitigate the increased GOP power is to pressure the Democrats to do something significant in the time remaining before November. But seeing as Obama has openly cast his lot with BP, I only expect that he will work strenuously to improve the prospects of the GOP so he can step down in 2012.

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