Anyone expecting or even hoping that the Republican Party starts to moderate in the near future doesn’t understand the dynamics driving the party.
Because of natural sorting and gerrymandering, the vast majority of Congressional Republicans will never face a competitive general election. The number of “swing districts” has shrunk dramatically over the past few decades. It went from 164 in 1998 to only 99 in 2012.
The only real re-election concern for most House Republicans is a primary challenge. In a primary the base is king and the Republican base wants an even more conservative party than they currently have.
According to Pew Research, 54 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters want the GOP leadership to move in an even more conservative direction. By comparison, only 40 percent want the party to become more moderate and this segment of the base is less likely to vote in a Republican primary.
While the vast majority of the Republican base thinks the party needs to change some of its positions, it wants these changes to move the party further to the right.
While being very conservative may technically hurt the party’s imagine as a whole, the built-in advantage for Republicans in the House is so strong right now they can easily maintain control of the House even if the loose the popular vote by a fairly large margin.
Taken together this means being very conservative remains the smartest political move for most individual Republican members of Congress. This fact is not only reinforced by this poll but that past several election cycles. Several big seating Republicans have been successfully primaried from the right, but none for being too conservative.
As long as these big factors remain they will work together to pull the party further to the right.