LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 1: Marchers call on House Speaker John Boehner to support moving forward on immigration reform outside the Metropolitan Detention Center, in the distance, during one a several May Day immigration-themed events on May 1, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Demonstrators are calling for immigration reform and an end to deportations of undocumented residents. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Catch of the Day: The Republicans' Disabling Compromise Phobia

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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A Catch to Jonathan Chait for highlighting one of the central findings of the new Pew Research Center survey on partisan polarization in the electorate: Republicans really hate compromise, and Democrats mostly like it.

Chait is almost certainly correct that Tea Party Republicans hate the "deal" part of "immigration deal" more than they hate the "immigration" part, though there's no polling that clearly proves it.

Nevertheless, this idea fits what I've been saying lately about the broken Republican Party. Without compromise, it is hard to govern well in any democracy, and that's certainly true in the U.S.'s Madisonian system, and particularly when there's divided government. And if the rank and file of the party takes a principled stand against compromise ... well, that's going to make things hard. Again, I don't think this has much of a direct electoral effect, but it does make governing very difficult for Republicans.

A couple of caveats to the Pew survey. See John Sides at the Monkey Cage for why some of the findings need to be interpreted carefully, and I think Ramesh Ponnuru is correct that Pew's write-up hypes some of the answers beyond what the questions can support.

But on the specific question of hostility to compromise, the findings seems correct to me. Moreover, as John says about partisan polarization in general, this is almost certainly a case of voters "learning" from party elites, including politicians. That -- and not any inherent liberal tendency toward compromise or a conservative tendency against it -- is why there's such a big party divide. Democratic politicians and other liberal opinion leaders simply don't preach that willingness to compromise is a grave political fault.

Nice catch!

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To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net