pro life protest outside Supreme Court
Credit: Jordan Uhl/Wikimedia Commons

When I saw this, it really made me stop and think:

A new Gallup poll finds that 64% of Americans believe the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on abortion should stand, while 28% would like to see it overturned.

“Partisans’ opinions are sharply polarized, with 81% of Democrats, 70% of independents and 41% of Republicans saying they do not want Roe v. Wade overturned. In contrast, 51% of Republicans, 22% of independents and 13% of Democrats want it reversed.”

Does the Republican Party act like 41 percent of their voters would like to preserve the Roe v. Wade ruling? Do Republican senators show any real division over the issue when it comes time to make decisions about who should be nominated for or confirmed to the federal judgeships?

Abortion rights aren’t the only only issue where we see a disconnect like this. Background checks for gun purchases is another example where the party seems to blithely ignore divided opinion within their own base of voters. It’s a strange phenomenon that I don’t see paralleled to the same degree on the left. There used to be a decent number of pro-union Republicans. Even Rick Santorum did OK with the unions at the beginning of his career. There used to be some strong environmentalists in the GOP. They used to have more than a tiny handful of pro-choice representatives, especially at the local level. That seems to gone away, beginning in earnest during the presidency of George W. Bush.

The Democrats have undergone some corresponding changes, like the decimation of the Blue Dog caucus and the demise of the Democratic Leadership Council. But they still have anti-choice members in both the House and Senate, as well as locally. They still have both free traders and hardline opponents of free trade. They still have gun rights absolutists, although their ranks have diminished more in response to mass shootings than to electoral defeat or primary challengers. They still have deficit hawks willing to take a bite out of people’s earned entitlements. The Democrats have the same kind of diversity of opinion within their voting bases as the Republicans have, but with the difference that their elected officials do a much better job of reflecting those divisions.

On Roe, the Republicans are at the cusp of catching the car they’ve been chasing all these years. When they catch it, it appears that more than four out of ten of their voters will be displeased. That’s a recipe for a major crack-up of their coalition. But there’s no real sense of caution or foreboding or regret that I can sense. There’s more a feeling of euphoria.

When the Democrats pursue policies that anywhere close to 64 percent of the people oppose or nearly half of their own voters disagree with, we see instant signs of distress. The concern trolls come out in force predicting political catastrophe. We saw this even with the effort to pass Obamacare, which was a project even more long-lasting and dear to the heart of the Democratic base than the overturning of Roe v. Wade has been to the conservative movement. It should be noted, however, that predictions of electoral catastrophe proved correct, all the way down to races in unincorporated hamlets.

It’s not strange that the Republicans would pursue a goal that is unpopular and could invite a backlash from the broader public. It’s strange that they’re willing and able to pursue that type of goal when more than 40 percent of their own supporters oppose it.

It’s a bizarre kind of discipline, and I think the explanation is related to other things we’ve seen, like the sudden rise of climate science denialism in the aftermath of John McCain’s failed presidential bid or the abrupt change of opinion about the character of Vladimir Putin in the aftermath of Trump’s victory. There’s a much larger sense of team loyalty on the right. Policies are supported because they anger the left or simply because they are being proposed by the right.

When 41 percent of Republicans don’t want to see Roe overturned, it should not be possible for a Supreme Court justice who will do just that to be confirmed. But they’ll support Kavanaugh to the bloody end because he’s their president’s nominee and it pisses off the libs.

Any sensible political strategist on the right would warn that the eventual backlash will tear the party down to the studs, but as long as it remains strictly theoretical, there’s barely a blip of warning or dissent.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at