John Cornyn Fixes the Facts Around the Policy

The Washington Post/ABC News poll typically goes into the field once every month or two, so it’s pretty good for examining trendlines. The president’s current approval rating (51%-43%) is the strongest it’s been since just before his second inauguration. You also have to go back to 2013 to find numbers higher than the 31% who strongly approve (in this poll, and in the last one) of the job the president is doing.

My best explanation for this is that Obama looks like Abraham Lincoln compared to the dick-measurers on the other side who are competing to replace him.

Now, in this same poll, respondents were asked if the Senate should conduct hearings to consider the president’s nominee to serve on the Supreme Court. The numbers were not close. A full 44% of the people strongly believed that hearings should be held, compared to 25% who strongly believed they should not. Overall, the split was 63% in favor of hearings and 32% opposed. Sixty-two percent of independents favored hearings, as did 46% of Republicans.

To be clear, this isn’t the same as expressing support for the confirmation of the president’s nominee. That question wasn’t asked. So, this is a judgment on process or norms. People do not agree that it’s kosher to simply stonewall a SCOTUS applicant.

But Senate Majority Whip, John Cornyn of Texas, doesn’t want his caucus to understand this sentiment. He’s passing around a different poll. Actually, he’s passing around a four-page memo based on a poll. It’s a survey conducted by Republican pollster Greg Strimple that hopes to express the sentiments of the entire country by asking 600 people what they think. You probably won’t be surprised to discover that Strimple’s findings are at odds with other recent polling.

For example, Strimple says that “54 percent of those surveyed were more concerned about a liberal justice being chosen to replace Scalia, compare[d] to the nearly 41 percent of respondents who were more worried about the seat being open for a year or more.” But the just-released NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey has different numbers.

In their poll, a 48%-37% plurality would prefer a vote (not mere hearings) on the president’s nominee. On the question of whether to even show the courtesy of conducting hearings, the public favored hearings 55%-28%.

The good news for the Republicans is that the people agreed 62%-29% that if the situation was reversed the Democrats would be employing the exact same obstructive tactics.

See, this how the “both sides do it” reporting we get so often from the mainstream media winds up providing a cushion for the Republicans when the violate every civil norm in our country. After all, if the Democrats would do the same thing, they basically deserve this treatment, right?

So, here we can see two main drivers of our country’s dysfunction in close proximity to each other. On the one hand, we have a public that has been convinced that there’s no meaningful difference between the two parties in terms of which is responsible for our gridlocked politics. And, on the other hand, we have the Senate Majority Whip using bad data to provide “objective” support for an obstructive strategy that the public actually hates.

Per usual, the GOP will fix the intelligence and facts around the policy, whether it’s climate science, Saddam’s WMD and culpability for 9/11, or what the public thinks about blocking a Supreme Court nominee.

And the media will not draw distinctions sharp enough for the public to internalize that, no, the Democrats would never act this way toward a Republican nominee.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.