Carville sees conservatives as alien creatures

Are you, by chance, a conservative? A Republican? Did you vote for John McCain last November, as well as the GOP candidate in your local congressional race?

If your answer to these question is yes, then you are very, very strange — and perhaps not even fully American. At the very least, you're not one of the rest of us.

If you don't believe it, just read “The Very Separate World of Conservative Republicans,” a new report by Democracy Corps, the political research firm run by Democratic operatives James Carville and Stanley Greenberg.

“The self-identifying conservative Republicans who make up the base of the Republican Party stand a world apart from the rest of America,” write Carville and Greenberg. Conservative Republicans, according to the Democracy Corps research, don't trust Barack Obama; are scared by the speed with which the president and Democrats in Congress are attempting to enact new programs; don't like government takeovers of business; and believe that many of their fellow Americans don't fully appreciate the threat posed by the Democratic agenda.

You might think those are entirely reasonable reactions to the Obama presidency, or are at least within the mainstream of American political debate. But Carville and Greenberg say those beliefs “are not part of the continuum leading to the center of the electorate.” If you hold them, you “truly stand apart.

How do the Carville and Greenberg know all this? Well, a few weeks ago, a Democracy Corps team traveled to Atlanta to convene two focus groups of conservative white voters, ages 45 to 60. The researchers then compared those results with two other focus groups done with older, white independent voters in Cleveland. They concluded that the folks in Cleveland were mainstream Americans, but the people in Atlanta were something else entirely.

Why? Because the Atlanta conservatives said things about Obama like: “He scares me because of how smart and smooth he is. I think the package he presents, combined with the media running interference for him, he could do a lot of things fast, which he's trying to do, which worries me.”

And: “I think the whole basis is, let's ram it through while we have the numbers, while we have the popularity and while maybe people don't know what's going on. … Once it's through, it's awful hard to repeal.”

Many people would consider such sentiments unremarkable; Carville and Greenberg find them deeply troubling. But the odd thing is, the Democracy Corps team discovered some of the same misgivings among the independents in Cleveland. They worry that Obama is doing “too much, too fast,” are afraid he is spending too much money, and are concerned about health care reform. But “they still fundamentally like and respect” Obama, according to Democracy Corps, and are “very clearly rooting for him to succeed.”

The message is this: Lots of people are troubled by what Obama is doing, but the conservative base is so far out that their concerns don't need to be taken seriously. And if you're an independent — crucial to Obama's fortunes — you wouldn't want to be associated with that, would you?

By the way, Carville and Greenberg found that Republicans not only worry about Obama — they have a very low opinion of their own party. “They see the Republican Party as ineffective and rudderless,” the two write, and also as out of touch with conservative principles.

As much as conservatives might dislike the new report — or laugh at it — Carville and Greenberg do have one bit of good news for those on the right: You're not racist.

After Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's famous “You lie!” outburst during Obama's address to Congress, commentators all over the media accused conservatives of outright racism. The Democracy Corps focus groups were conducted not long after the Wilson matter, and Carville and Greenberg were specifically looking for signs of racial animus. “We gave these groups of older, white Republican base voters in Georgia full opportunity to bring race into their discussion, but it did not ever become a central element, and indeed, was almost beside the point,” Carville and Greenberg write. Race, they conclude, was “certainly not what was bothering them about President Obama.”

No, what bothers them about Obama is what he's actually trying to do. If having such concerns means they stand a world apart from the rest of America, then there are millions of Americans standing with them.

Byron York, The Examiner's chief political correspondent, can be contacted at byork@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears on Tuesday and Friday, and his stories and blog posts appears on ExaminerPolitics.com.

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