It's an image that the conservative movement had done an excellent job of cultivating since the September 11 terrorist attacks. In the narrative they promoted, they were the true American patriots who would preserve the country's values and keep it safe from harm, while the Democratic faction that opposed them was at best feckless, and at worst bent on surrendering and letting the terrorists win. And even as corruption, a failed occupation, incompetence and financial collapse swept Democrats back into power in 2006 and 2008, many Republicans still campaigned continuously on the narrative of putting America first, especially in contrast to supporters of Barack Hussein Obama.
That story, however, may now be at the end of its arc. More below.
If the tea party faction thought that they could lay claim to the idea of representing "real America" by dressing up in colonial clothes and calling President Obama some sort of foreigner, that idea is now out the window. After the Republican-controlled House of Representatives decided to shut down the government in a desperate attempt to take away the ability of the less fortunate to get health insurance, their polling took a major hit. Over half the country now thinks that it's a bad thing that the Republican Party controls the House; three quarters of Americans believe that Republican members of Congress don't deserve re-election.
All of those numbers would be bad in their own right, but there's one that's even worse, as Steve Benen at MSNBC reports:
The results cover quite a bit of ground, but there was one question in particular that stood out for me: respondents were asked whether they believe the various officials in Washington are more interested in doing what’s best for the country or what’s best for themselves politically. It’s an interesting question because it speaks to something that isn’t often polled: perceptions of motivations.Given the revulsion that the American public feels toward Congress in general, it's unsurprising that Democrats on Capitol Hill are operating at a deficit in this regard as well, even if it isn't nearly as steep as that faced by their Republican counterparts. But what should scare Republicans even more than their own abysmal numbers? President Obama's. Despite every single thing that Republicans have said and done to delegitimize the President, ascribe evil intentions to him, and impute that he does not share American values, a majority of Americans think that he cares about what is best for the country more than being motivated by selfish intentions.
I put together the chart above to capture the results, which should terrify Republican officials. By a nearly four-to-one margin, Americans believe GOP lawmakers in Congress aren’t concerned with the nation’s best interests. That’s just astounding.
Yet despite these drastically horrible numbers, some in the tea party faction seem predisposed to favor yet another shutdown, yet another hostage fight with President Obama as the country's economic future hangs in the balance. If that is indeed what they choose to do, the message is very simple: this group of House Republicans simply does not care about this country and its people. It's a stark message, but the polling bears out its resonance. Even though the midterm elections are over a year away, Democrats have the best opportunity they have had in many years to permanently damage the opposing brand.
The specifics of policy positions are relevant to this opportunity, of course; but far more relevant is the simple fact that House Republicans have placed their political vendettas over the well-being of the country as a whole. The American public no longer trust that these Republicans are the type of people who want to do the right thing, and that is far bigger than any policy issue.