A recent focus group conducted by the Democracy Corps finds that the "self-identifying conservative Republicans who make up the base of the Republican Party stand a world apart from the rest of America." I think I might have used the term "self-pitying."
These base Republican voters dislike Barack Obama to be sure--which is not very surprising as base Democrats had few positive things to say about George Bush -- but these voters identify themselves as part of a "mocked" minority with a set of shared beliefs and knowledge , and commitment to oppose Obama that sets them apart from the majority of the country. They believe Obama is ruthlessly advancing a "secret agenda" to bankrupt the United States and dramatically expand government control to an extent nothing short of socialism. They overwhelmingly view a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of this country's founding principles and are committed to seeing the president fail.
"Instead of focusing on these intense ideological divisions, the press and elites continue to look for a racial element that drives these voters' beliefs -- but they need to get over it." With all due respects and while I haven't conducted a focus study, a life-time of experience has illustrated repeatedly that it is in fact all about racism. It is an insidious, unspoken kind of racism, which is all the more dangerous. Too many times I've heard relatives, neighbors and casual acquaintances begin a statement with, "I'm not prejudiced, but those damn . . ."
They also believe they possess a level of knowledge and understanding when it comes to politics and current events, one gained from a rejection of the mainstream media and an embrace of conservative media and pundits such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, which sets them apart even more.
This is pure self-delusion and illustrates just how out of touch with reality these people are.
Looking at the current political debate, it was evident in out focus group discussions that the divide between conservative Republicans and even the most conservative-leaning independents remains very, very wide. Independents harbor doubts about Obama's health care reform but are desperate to see some version of health care reform this year; the conservative Republicans view any health care reform as a victory for Obama and are militantly opposed.
Note: Democracy Corps conducted a parallel set of groups in suburban Cleveland. "These groups, comprised of older, white, non-college independent and weak partisans, represent some of the most conservative swing voters in the electorate, and they demonstrated a wholly different worldview from Republican base voters by dismissing the fear of 'socialism' and evaluating Obama in very different terms."