THE REPUBLICAN COMEBACK WAS INEVITABLE

Nobody could have foreseen that the Republican Party's image would recover in the year after January 6...
There is no lasting stain on the Republican brand, and though most voters continue to blame Trump for the events as a congressional probe moves through his orbit and homes in on him, they do not appear ready to punish Republicans for the attack on American democracy.

The GOP’s recovering brand

Between August 2020 and immediately after Trump’s supporters raided the Capitol, the share of voters who said the GOP was headed in the “right direction” fell from 32 percent to 24 percent, driven largely by Republicans and independents. But now, sentiment about the Republican Party’s trajectory is slightly better than it was before Jan. 6....

According to the latest data, gathered Dec. 18-20 among 2,000 registered voters ahead of the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack, 34 percent say the Republican Party is headed in the right direction, matching voter optimism toward the Democratic Party’s own tack. Though improvement was observed across the partisan aisle, it was most notable among Republicans, 65 percent of whom say their party is headed in the right direction — up 14 percentage points since January 2021.

To some extent, the Republican recovery seen in this Morning Consult poll is happening because the notion that Joe Biden is a failed president has calcified into conventional wisdom. To some extent it's because Democrats have struggled to pass their agenda in as public a fashion as possible -- every missed deadline is a public embarrassment, and no one tries to keep the infighting behind the scenes. It's happening because of the persistence of the pandemic, and because gas costs more than $3 a gallon.

But it's also happening because too many Democrats -- not just Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, but even some who want to change the Senate's filibuster rules -- have endorsed the idea that getting Republican buy-in for their legislation confers legitimacy. They've made a Republican, Liz Cheney, the face of the House January 6 committee. Nancy Pelosi and others say that America needs a "strong Republican Party" -- and while Pelosi also says the GOP is currently in thrall to extremists, she strongly suggests that there are responsible, mainstream Republicans who could wrest control from the crazies at any moment.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, Paul Gosar, and their ideological allies are the real stars of the GOP, but Democrats never try to make them the faces of the party. They're treated as eccentric outliers who momentarily have our attention. Meanwhile, Republicans have their base convinced that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of "the Squad" are the real leaders of the Democratic Party, and are more extreme than they actually are.

In the past year, the Republican Party has embraced Trump, January 6, and the notion that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election -- and the logical conclusion to be drawn from that is that the GOP base has increasingly positive feelings about the party because it takes these positions. But what Democrats say about Republicans is that some of them voted for the infrastructure bill, and some of them (or so Joe Manchin claims) might support a voting rights bill, and two of them are true patriots because they're on the January 6 committee -- so now more Democrats approve of the GOP as well.

Democrats could assert that the GOP is a pariah party, or at least that it should be treated as one. They could assert that extremists are the true leaders of the GOP and that the party's agenda is pure radicalism. Why not? Republicans say every one of these things about Democrats, on a daily basis. They say Democrats aren't real Americans. And it works.