From Polarization to Radicalization

Via Paul Waldman, there’s a new Quinnipiac survey on immigration policy that shows Republican rank-and-file shifting to a position supporting the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants with great force following the president’s recent executive action. And in the last year, GOP support for “involuntary departure” as opposed to a path to citizenship has shifted from a small plurality for the latter to a two-to-one margin for the former.

Waldman observes that this shows how reaction to Obama politics among Republicans goes beyond opposition to something deeper:

[W]hat the Quinnipiac poll suggests — and granted, this is only one poll and we won’t know for sure until we get more evidence — this process also ends up shifting people’s underlying beliefs about the issue.

In other words, Republicans aren’t simply opposed to the sort of temporary “amnesty” Obama’s policies; they’re beginning to rule out anything other than police dogs and cattle cars.

This could, as Waldman suggests, reflect a process whereby partisan polarization leads to ideological radicalization. Or perhaps rank-and-file Republicans are actually figuring out that no position other than “deport ’em all” makes sense once you begin to rule out the other alternatives.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.