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Why Republicans are always looking over their shoulders

Conservative insurgents have repeatedly tried to defeat Congressional incumbents

Thomas B Edsall | NYT 

Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller reacts to applause from the audience during his farewell ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington Photo: Reuters
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller reacts to applause from the audience during his farewell ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington Photo: Reuters

The sudden appointment of Robert S. Mueller as a special counsel for the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia highlights a key question: Which choice poses the greater risk for in Congress, to support a potential impeachment or to close ranks behind the president? To defy Trump or to defend him? To provoke anger among the legions of Trump loyalists back home or to run the risk of turning the 2018 midterms into a Democratic wave election?

In his classic 1974 study, “Congress: The Electoral Connection,” David Mayhew, a political scientist at Yale, based his analysis on a simple but profoundly illuminating premise: that members of the House and Senate are “single-minded seekers of re-election.”

For that reason, for congressmen trying to titrate their response to the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation as it unfolds, the most important development on the Republican side of the aisle is the rise in recent years of primary challenges from the right.

Highly conservative insurgents have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to defeat Congressional incumbents who fail to toe the line.

Being “primaried” from the right dates back at least to 1978. That year, Clifford Case, a pro-civil rights Republican senator from New Jersey — first elected to in 1944 — was defeated in the primary by Jeff Bell, a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign, an opponent of affirmative action, a defender of “pre-birth personhood” and a supporter of applying “the 14th Amendment to the unborn.” (Bell ended up losing to Bill Bradley in the general election.)

Case’s primary defeat marked the onset of a purge of moderate from As a 1978 Times editorial pointed out, from the day Case arrived in Washington

'he was under attack from conservative elements of his own party. In 1954, when others were cowed by the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, Senator Case was openly critical. In contrast to other Republicans, he has been a steadfast supporter of social and civil rights legislation.'

The threat to centrist — a lineage that includes President Eisenhower, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, President Gerald Ford and two Senate Majority Leaders, Howard Baker and Bob Dole — intensified in 2010 when Tea Party-backed candidates on the far right of the conservative spectrum defeated 22 sitting members and establishment-backed candidates in primaries from New York to Nevada.

Seth Masket, a professor of political science at the University of Denver, summarized the quandary facing members of in a polarized nation:

in particular represent much more conservative districts than they used to, and they risk offending a much more active and ideologically demanding group of activists in primary elections should they be seen working with Democrats or undermining President Trump. Relatedly, the policy differences between the two parties are much greater than they used to be, so doing anything that could lead to the other party being in power is a potentially very costly exercise. Bipartisanship is just riskier and potentially costlier behavior than it used to be.

The success of right-wing challengers to centrist Republican members of the House and Senate stems from a set of mutually reinforcing trends.

These trends include growing ideological consistency in the electorate, geographic sorting, gerrymandered districts, the perception of partisan opponents as mortal enemies and the emotional intensity underpinning issues of race and sex.

For a Republican senator or representative who is considering a break with the Trump administration, these developments in the electorate pose a hazard. Defection risks inflaming primary voters in 2018.

According to American National Election Studies, 45 percent of Republican voters described themselves as conservative in 1974. By 2012, 70 percent said they were conservative.

The Pew Research Center has shown that turnout in Republican primaries tilts even farther to the right. To give one example, in 2012 Pew found that 75 percent of Republican primary voters — whom Pew describes as “high engagement Republicans” — described themselves as conservative, more than triple the 23 percent of self-described liberals and moderates.

These voters view the Democratic Party not only as the opposition, but as imperiling the national welfare (a view shared in reverse by “high engagement” Democrats). Under these circumstances, bipartisan cooperation can seem positively dangerous.

The accompanying chart, which is based on data from Pew, shows that 62 percent of engaged — those most likely to cast primary votes — say the Democratic Party makes them feel “afraid,” 58 percent say it makes them “angry” and 58 percent say it makes them “frustrated.” 
At the same time, according to Pew, the percentage of Republican voters whose view of the Democratic Party is unfavorable grew from 74 percent in 1994 to 91 percent in 2016. Equally important, the percentage with “very unfavorable” views has nearly tripled, from 21 percent in 1994 to 58 in 2016.

The increase in safe House seats from 1992 to 2012 is the driving force behind the growing significance of primary elections and the declining salience of general elections. For Republicans, safe districts — where the potential threat to an incumbent is in the primary and not in the general election — rose from 136 in 1992 to 191 in 2012. For Democrats, the number of safe districts grew from 111 in 1992 to 156 in 2012.

focused on self-interest — or self-preservation — are under pressure from all directions.

Nolan McCarty, a political scientist at Princeton, made the point in an email that, given the current level of polarization, a Republican who challenges his party by taking on President Trump and still survives the primary may not be rewarded in the general election because there is “much less opportunity for offsetting support from Democrats and Independents.”

Another factor elected must consider in calculating their positions is an upsurge in straight ticket voting since 1992.

Marc Hetherington, a political scientist at Vanderbilt, argues that voting patterns in states and districts are making it increasingly hazardous for a politician to break ranks:

Consider voting behavior in the 2016 election. For the first time in history, every state that voted Democratic voted for a Democrat for Senate. Every state that voted Republican voted for a Republican for Senate. As for congressional districts, the number of split voting districts between the presidential and House elections reached a minimum since such records have been kept, which dates to 1920.

In the current political climate, Hetherington said:

hate the Democratic Party so much and Democrats hate the Republican Party so much that they do not view the other side as a viable option.

In the past, when the electorate was less partisan,

would have to worry about what Democrats in the electorate thought because they counted on getting votes from Democrats when they had to face the voters in the fall. Now, they do not.

Along similar lines, Martin Gilens, a political scientist at Princeton, noted:

Compromise and bipartisanship are increasingly viewed as betrayal. In recent years, challenges to party leadership have come only from extremist factions like the Tea Party, not from centrists concerned with maintaining institutional norms or adopting policies with widespread appeal.

In her 2016 book, “Insecure Majorities,” Frances Lee, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, describes some of the forces that contribute to the rejection of compromise and bipartisanship.

Lee points out that when control of the House and Senate is up for grabs — as it has been since 1980 — the pressure on members to maintain strict partisan loyalty intensifies. She argues that

Intense party competition for institutional control focuses members of on the quest for partisan political advantage. When party control seemingly hangs in the balance, members and leaders of both parties invest more effort in enterprises to promote their own party’s image and undercut that of the opposition.

Partisan calculations, Lee writes, “will weigh more heavily on political decision making under more party-competitive conditions.” And

when majority status is in play, members of out parties tend to think in terms of winning the long game of institutional control rather than the short game of wielding influence by cooperating in policy making.

Chris Cillizza, a political commentator at CNN, recently wrote that Trump’s

series of self-inflicted wounds has congressional mystified and scared, desperately trying to figure out what Trump will do next and, as importantly, what it all means for their own political prospects. To date, have stood by Trump or at least stayed silent in the face of his many foibles.

While a great danger facing — one with vast consequences going forward — is that they will wait to act longer than their voters are prepared to tolerate, there are clear signs that Republican willingness to stand behind Trump has begun to fray.

On Wednesday, before Mueller’s appointment was announced, two Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine had already suggested that it might well be time for the appointment of a special prosecutor. Other Republican senators who have publicly criticized Trump include Ben Sasse of Nebraska, John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

From Trump’s vantage point, support in Washington, and in the electorate as a whole, is falling off. He will continue to try to make a political virtue of this, arguing, as he did in his commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday, that “the people understand what I’m doing and that’s the most important thing” and that “I didn’t get elected to serve the Washington media — I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

The question now is what this reckless president with little regard for the law will do as the challenge to his legitimacy deepens.

©2017 The New York Times News Service

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Why Republicans are always looking over their shoulders

Conservative insurgents have repeatedly tried to defeat Congressional incumbents

Conservative insurgents have repeatedly tried to defeat Congressional incumbents
The sudden appointment of Robert S. Mueller as a special counsel for the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia highlights a key question: Which choice poses the greater risk for in Congress, to support a potential impeachment or to close ranks behind the president? To defy Trump or to defend him? To provoke anger among the legions of Trump loyalists back home or to run the risk of turning the 2018 midterms into a Democratic wave election?

In his classic 1974 study, “Congress: The Electoral Connection,” David Mayhew, a political scientist at Yale, based his analysis on a simple but profoundly illuminating premise: that members of the House and Senate are “single-minded seekers of re-election.”

For that reason, for congressmen trying to titrate their response to the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation as it unfolds, the most important development on the Republican side of the aisle is the rise in recent years of primary challenges from the right.

Highly conservative insurgents have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to defeat Congressional incumbents who fail to toe the line.

Being “primaried” from the right dates back at least to 1978. That year, Clifford Case, a pro-civil rights Republican senator from New Jersey — first elected to in 1944 — was defeated in the primary by Jeff Bell, a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign, an opponent of affirmative action, a defender of “pre-birth personhood” and a supporter of applying “the 14th Amendment to the unborn.” (Bell ended up losing to Bill Bradley in the general election.)

Case’s primary defeat marked the onset of a purge of moderate from As a 1978 Times editorial pointed out, from the day Case arrived in Washington

'he was under attack from conservative elements of his own party. In 1954, when others were cowed by the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, Senator Case was openly critical. In contrast to other Republicans, he has been a steadfast supporter of social and civil rights legislation.'

The threat to centrist — a lineage that includes President Eisenhower, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, President Gerald Ford and two Senate Majority Leaders, Howard Baker and Bob Dole — intensified in 2010 when Tea Party-backed candidates on the far right of the conservative spectrum defeated 22 sitting members and establishment-backed candidates in primaries from New York to Nevada.

Seth Masket, a professor of political science at the University of Denver, summarized the quandary facing members of in a polarized nation:

in particular represent much more conservative districts than they used to, and they risk offending a much more active and ideologically demanding group of activists in primary elections should they be seen working with Democrats or undermining President Trump. Relatedly, the policy differences between the two parties are much greater than they used to be, so doing anything that could lead to the other party being in power is a potentially very costly exercise. Bipartisanship is just riskier and potentially costlier behavior than it used to be.

The success of right-wing challengers to centrist Republican members of the House and Senate stems from a set of mutually reinforcing trends.

These trends include growing ideological consistency in the electorate, geographic sorting, gerrymandered districts, the perception of partisan opponents as mortal enemies and the emotional intensity underpinning issues of race and sex.

For a Republican senator or representative who is considering a break with the Trump administration, these developments in the electorate pose a hazard. Defection risks inflaming primary voters in 2018.

According to American National Election Studies, 45 percent of Republican voters described themselves as conservative in 1974. By 2012, 70 percent said they were conservative.

The Pew Research Center has shown that turnout in Republican primaries tilts even farther to the right. To give one example, in 2012 Pew found that 75 percent of Republican primary voters — whom Pew describes as “high engagement Republicans” — described themselves as conservative, more than triple the 23 percent of self-described liberals and moderates.

These voters view the Democratic Party not only as the opposition, but as imperiling the national welfare (a view shared in reverse by “high engagement” Democrats). Under these circumstances, bipartisan cooperation can seem positively dangerous.

The accompanying chart, which is based on data from Pew, shows that 62 percent of engaged — those most likely to cast primary votes — say the Democratic Party makes them feel “afraid,” 58 percent say it makes them “angry” and 58 percent say it makes them “frustrated.” 
At the same time, according to Pew, the percentage of Republican voters whose view of the Democratic Party is unfavorable grew from 74 percent in 1994 to 91 percent in 2016. Equally important, the percentage with “very unfavorable” views has nearly tripled, from 21 percent in 1994 to 58 in 2016.

The increase in safe House seats from 1992 to 2012 is the driving force behind the growing significance of primary elections and the declining salience of general elections. For Republicans, safe districts — where the potential threat to an incumbent is in the primary and not in the general election — rose from 136 in 1992 to 191 in 2012. For Democrats, the number of safe districts grew from 111 in 1992 to 156 in 2012.

focused on self-interest — or self-preservation — are under pressure from all directions.

Nolan McCarty, a political scientist at Princeton, made the point in an email that, given the current level of polarization, a Republican who challenges his party by taking on President Trump and still survives the primary may not be rewarded in the general election because there is “much less opportunity for offsetting support from Democrats and Independents.”

Another factor elected must consider in calculating their positions is an upsurge in straight ticket voting since 1992.

Marc Hetherington, a political scientist at Vanderbilt, argues that voting patterns in states and districts are making it increasingly hazardous for a politician to break ranks:

Consider voting behavior in the 2016 election. For the first time in history, every state that voted Democratic voted for a Democrat for Senate. Every state that voted Republican voted for a Republican for Senate. As for congressional districts, the number of split voting districts between the presidential and House elections reached a minimum since such records have been kept, which dates to 1920.

In the current political climate, Hetherington said:

hate the Democratic Party so much and Democrats hate the Republican Party so much that they do not view the other side as a viable option.

In the past, when the electorate was less partisan,

would have to worry about what Democrats in the electorate thought because they counted on getting votes from Democrats when they had to face the voters in the fall. Now, they do not.

Along similar lines, Martin Gilens, a political scientist at Princeton, noted:

Compromise and bipartisanship are increasingly viewed as betrayal. In recent years, challenges to party leadership have come only from extremist factions like the Tea Party, not from centrists concerned with maintaining institutional norms or adopting policies with widespread appeal.

In her 2016 book, “Insecure Majorities,” Frances Lee, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, describes some of the forces that contribute to the rejection of compromise and bipartisanship.

Lee points out that when control of the House and Senate is up for grabs — as it has been since 1980 — the pressure on members to maintain strict partisan loyalty intensifies. She argues that

Intense party competition for institutional control focuses members of on the quest for partisan political advantage. When party control seemingly hangs in the balance, members and leaders of both parties invest more effort in enterprises to promote their own party’s image and undercut that of the opposition.

Partisan calculations, Lee writes, “will weigh more heavily on political decision making under more party-competitive conditions.” And

when majority status is in play, members of out parties tend to think in terms of winning the long game of institutional control rather than the short game of wielding influence by cooperating in policy making.

Chris Cillizza, a political commentator at CNN, recently wrote that Trump’s

series of self-inflicted wounds has congressional mystified and scared, desperately trying to figure out what Trump will do next and, as importantly, what it all means for their own political prospects. To date, have stood by Trump or at least stayed silent in the face of his many foibles.

While a great danger facing — one with vast consequences going forward — is that they will wait to act longer than their voters are prepared to tolerate, there are clear signs that Republican willingness to stand behind Trump has begun to fray.

On Wednesday, before Mueller’s appointment was announced, two Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine had already suggested that it might well be time for the appointment of a special prosecutor. Other Republican senators who have publicly criticized Trump include Ben Sasse of Nebraska, John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

From Trump’s vantage point, support in Washington, and in the electorate as a whole, is falling off. He will continue to try to make a political virtue of this, arguing, as he did in his commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday, that “the people understand what I’m doing and that’s the most important thing” and that “I didn’t get elected to serve the Washington media — I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

The question now is what this reckless president with little regard for the law will do as the challenge to his legitimacy deepens.

©2017 The New York Times News Service

image
Business Standard
177 22

Why Republicans are always looking over their shoulders

Conservative insurgents have repeatedly tried to defeat Congressional incumbents

The sudden appointment of Robert S. Mueller as a special counsel for the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia highlights a key question: Which choice poses the greater risk for in Congress, to support a potential impeachment or to close ranks behind the president? To defy Trump or to defend him? To provoke anger among the legions of Trump loyalists back home or to run the risk of turning the 2018 midterms into a Democratic wave election?

In his classic 1974 study, “Congress: The Electoral Connection,” David Mayhew, a political scientist at Yale, based his analysis on a simple but profoundly illuminating premise: that members of the House and Senate are “single-minded seekers of re-election.”

For that reason, for congressmen trying to titrate their response to the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation as it unfolds, the most important development on the Republican side of the aisle is the rise in recent years of primary challenges from the right.

Highly conservative insurgents have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to defeat Congressional incumbents who fail to toe the line.

Being “primaried” from the right dates back at least to 1978. That year, Clifford Case, a pro-civil rights Republican senator from New Jersey — first elected to in 1944 — was defeated in the primary by Jeff Bell, a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign, an opponent of affirmative action, a defender of “pre-birth personhood” and a supporter of applying “the 14th Amendment to the unborn.” (Bell ended up losing to Bill Bradley in the general election.)

Case’s primary defeat marked the onset of a purge of moderate from As a 1978 Times editorial pointed out, from the day Case arrived in Washington

'he was under attack from conservative elements of his own party. In 1954, when others were cowed by the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, Senator Case was openly critical. In contrast to other Republicans, he has been a steadfast supporter of social and civil rights legislation.'

The threat to centrist — a lineage that includes President Eisenhower, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, President Gerald Ford and two Senate Majority Leaders, Howard Baker and Bob Dole — intensified in 2010 when Tea Party-backed candidates on the far right of the conservative spectrum defeated 22 sitting members and establishment-backed candidates in primaries from New York to Nevada.

Seth Masket, a professor of political science at the University of Denver, summarized the quandary facing members of in a polarized nation:

in particular represent much more conservative districts than they used to, and they risk offending a much more active and ideologically demanding group of activists in primary elections should they be seen working with Democrats or undermining President Trump. Relatedly, the policy differences between the two parties are much greater than they used to be, so doing anything that could lead to the other party being in power is a potentially very costly exercise. Bipartisanship is just riskier and potentially costlier behavior than it used to be.

The success of right-wing challengers to centrist Republican members of the House and Senate stems from a set of mutually reinforcing trends.

These trends include growing ideological consistency in the electorate, geographic sorting, gerrymandered districts, the perception of partisan opponents as mortal enemies and the emotional intensity underpinning issues of race and sex.

For a Republican senator or representative who is considering a break with the Trump administration, these developments in the electorate pose a hazard. Defection risks inflaming primary voters in 2018.

According to American National Election Studies, 45 percent of Republican voters described themselves as conservative in 1974. By 2012, 70 percent said they were conservative.

The Pew Research Center has shown that turnout in Republican primaries tilts even farther to the right. To give one example, in 2012 Pew found that 75 percent of Republican primary voters — whom Pew describes as “high engagement Republicans” — described themselves as conservative, more than triple the 23 percent of self-described liberals and moderates.

These voters view the Democratic Party not only as the opposition, but as imperiling the national welfare (a view shared in reverse by “high engagement” Democrats). Under these circumstances, bipartisan cooperation can seem positively dangerous.

The accompanying chart, which is based on data from Pew, shows that 62 percent of engaged — those most likely to cast primary votes — say the Democratic Party makes them feel “afraid,” 58 percent say it makes them “angry” and 58 percent say it makes them “frustrated.” 
At the same time, according to Pew, the percentage of Republican voters whose view of the Democratic Party is unfavorable grew from 74 percent in 1994 to 91 percent in 2016. Equally important, the percentage with “very unfavorable” views has nearly tripled, from 21 percent in 1994 to 58 in 2016.

The increase in safe House seats from 1992 to 2012 is the driving force behind the growing significance of primary elections and the declining salience of general elections. For Republicans, safe districts — where the potential threat to an incumbent is in the primary and not in the general election — rose from 136 in 1992 to 191 in 2012. For Democrats, the number of safe districts grew from 111 in 1992 to 156 in 2012.

focused on self-interest — or self-preservation — are under pressure from all directions.

Nolan McCarty, a political scientist at Princeton, made the point in an email that, given the current level of polarization, a Republican who challenges his party by taking on President Trump and still survives the primary may not be rewarded in the general election because there is “much less opportunity for offsetting support from Democrats and Independents.”

Another factor elected must consider in calculating their positions is an upsurge in straight ticket voting since 1992.

Marc Hetherington, a political scientist at Vanderbilt, argues that voting patterns in states and districts are making it increasingly hazardous for a politician to break ranks:

Consider voting behavior in the 2016 election. For the first time in history, every state that voted Democratic voted for a Democrat for Senate. Every state that voted Republican voted for a Republican for Senate. As for congressional districts, the number of split voting districts between the presidential and House elections reached a minimum since such records have been kept, which dates to 1920.

In the current political climate, Hetherington said:

hate the Democratic Party so much and Democrats hate the Republican Party so much that they do not view the other side as a viable option.

In the past, when the electorate was less partisan,

would have to worry about what Democrats in the electorate thought because they counted on getting votes from Democrats when they had to face the voters in the fall. Now, they do not.

Along similar lines, Martin Gilens, a political scientist at Princeton, noted:

Compromise and bipartisanship are increasingly viewed as betrayal. In recent years, challenges to party leadership have come only from extremist factions like the Tea Party, not from centrists concerned with maintaining institutional norms or adopting policies with widespread appeal.

In her 2016 book, “Insecure Majorities,” Frances Lee, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, describes some of the forces that contribute to the rejection of compromise and bipartisanship.

Lee points out that when control of the House and Senate is up for grabs — as it has been since 1980 — the pressure on members to maintain strict partisan loyalty intensifies. She argues that

Intense party competition for institutional control focuses members of on the quest for partisan political advantage. When party control seemingly hangs in the balance, members and leaders of both parties invest more effort in enterprises to promote their own party’s image and undercut that of the opposition.

Partisan calculations, Lee writes, “will weigh more heavily on political decision making under more party-competitive conditions.” And

when majority status is in play, members of out parties tend to think in terms of winning the long game of institutional control rather than the short game of wielding influence by cooperating in policy making.

Chris Cillizza, a political commentator at CNN, recently wrote that Trump’s

series of self-inflicted wounds has congressional mystified and scared, desperately trying to figure out what Trump will do next and, as importantly, what it all means for their own political prospects. To date, have stood by Trump or at least stayed silent in the face of his many foibles.

While a great danger facing — one with vast consequences going forward — is that they will wait to act longer than their voters are prepared to tolerate, there are clear signs that Republican willingness to stand behind Trump has begun to fray.

On Wednesday, before Mueller’s appointment was announced, two Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine had already suggested that it might well be time for the appointment of a special prosecutor. Other Republican senators who have publicly criticized Trump include Ben Sasse of Nebraska, John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

From Trump’s vantage point, support in Washington, and in the electorate as a whole, is falling off. He will continue to try to make a political virtue of this, arguing, as he did in his commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday, that “the people understand what I’m doing and that’s the most important thing” and that “I didn’t get elected to serve the Washington media — I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

The question now is what this reckless president with little regard for the law will do as the challenge to his legitimacy deepens.

©2017 The New York Times News Service

image
Business Standard
177 22