The major problem with the Republican Party is that it has been taken over by far right extremists, but there are two hopeful signs today that some are rejecting the extremes.
The first is that Sarah Palin, the major example of both the extremism of the GOP and of its disdain for intelligence and reason, is declining in popularity among Republicans. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that Palin’s popularity has fallen to a new low:
For the first time in Post-ABC News polling, fewer than six in 10 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents see Palin in a favorable light, down from a stratospheric 88 percent in the days after the 2008 Republican National Convention and 70 percent as recently as October.
In one sense, the poll still finds Palin near the top of a list of eight potential contenders for the GOP nomination. The former vice presidential candidate scores a 58 percent favorable rating, close to the 61 percent for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and 60 percent for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and better than the 55 percent that onetime House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) received.
But Palin’s unfavorable numbers are significantly higher than they are for any of these possible competitors. Fully 37 percent of all Republicans and GOP-leaning independents now hold a negative view of her, a new high.
In another first, fewer than 50 percent of Republican-leaning independents — 47 percent — hold favorable views of Palin.
I would hope this is a sign of the rejection of Palin’s policy positions and of the authoritarian right, but much of the opposition to Palin is simply a rejection of her personal ignorance and incompetence.
Findings such as this, along with criticism of Palin by many conservatives, has increased doubt about Palin’s ability to win the Republican nomination in 2012. It is far too early to make any predictions regarding how such a primary contest will play out. An early win in Iowa, where social conservatives dominate the Republican Party, could suddenly make her the front runner and possibly give her a victory similar to John Kerry’s victory in the 2004 Democratic primary race. Palin could also conceivably win the nomination by being first or second in many states, picking up a larger block of candidates than anyone else in a divided race. While it is premature to write off her chances of winning the Republican nomination, Palin is no Ronald Reagan and her chances of ever winning in a national race is extremely remote.
Meanwhile Politico reports that some “Republican House members are pushing back against conservative deficit hawks who are pushing for endlessly deep spending cuts, saying the right wing of the party is creating unnecessary divisions for the GOP majority.” A good sign, but I’m still waiting for the day when more Republicans push back against the growing tendency of Republicans to support increased government interference in the private lives of individuals and for a day when more Republicans push back against the right wing’s rejection of knowledge, reason, and science.