"Refudiate," a word Sarah Palin created by conflating "refute" and "repudiate" in a Twitter tweet, has entered the New Oxford American Dictionary. It could also serve as her party's new congressional battle cry.
There's a lot of refudiating going on these days in the Party of No, and a new poll confirms that's how Republicans like it.
Given a choice, most Republicans tell a new poll by Gallup and USA Today that they would stick with "principles" while most Democrats favor "compromise to get things done." Maybe we should call them the "Stubborn Idealists" and "Deal-Making Realists" parties.
A 41-percent plurality of Republicans says leaders should stick to their beliefs, in the poll. Only 32 percent favor compromise. By contrast, a strong 59-percent majority of Democrats prefers "compromise." Only 18 percent would fall into the Democratic Party's version of refudiators.
A less-scientific survey by National Journal of about 300 evenly divided Republican and Democratic operatives produced a similar divide with Republicans favoring confrontation and the Democrats compromise.
Findings like those enrage staunch left-wingers like blogger Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos. "Maybe spineless Democrats are just responding to their supporters after all," he said. "If the Democratic leadership acted with confidence, their supporters might actually follow suit."
But most Democratic leaders probably see good news in the Gallup survey. After all, when you include independents, Americans overall tended to agree with the Democrats surveyed. They preferred compromise to confrontation by 47 percent to 27 percent.
That divide takes on dramatic meaning as the Obama administration prepares for a possible budget showdown with a new Republican majority in the House, energized by anti-tax tea party-backed candidates and a smaller, more left-leaning Democratic minority.
If only one side favors compromise, that's a formula for gridlock. But, as we saw in 1994 in Speaker Newt Gingrich's showdown with President Bill Clinton, that was OK with a lot of Republicans, since a shut-down government can't spend as much money as one that's fully open for business.
And things later worked out even better for Democrats. Polls showed most of the public sided with Clinton. Gingrich's Republicans came off as obstructionists who were willing to shut down national parks and risk Social Security and Medicare checks, among other popular government benefits, rather than compromise on their budget-cutting principles. The backlash was not the only reason why Clinton sailed to reelection two years later, but it certainly didn't hurt.
Washington is in pretty bad shape when reasonableness and compromise become partisan issues. That's what I said a few weeks ago when critics accused comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert of committing a stealthy form of liberal partisanship with their semi-satirical "Rally to Restore Sanity" on the Washington Mall. Judging by the new polls -- and pervasive congressional partisanship -- it looks as though the polarization of reasonableness is more serious than I thought.
We could have seen this coming two years ago when a Pew Research Center survey found Democrats going into the 2008 elections to be larger in number and more diverse politically than Republicans. A commanding 68 percent of Republicans described themselves as "conservative," for example, while a paltry 34 percent of Democrats were willing to call themselves "liberal." Another 37 percent called themselves "moderates" and 25 percent called themselves "conservative."
Only 4 percent of Republicans called themselves "liberal," which is small enough to make me wonder whether they heard the question correctly.
Such softness on the left doesn't make the Democratic Party's left wing happy, but it helps to make Democrats overall more congenial to compromise, if it helps government to get things done to their liking, even if it's only part way.
It also leaves the Republicans, energized by the tea party movement and anti-Obama backlash, more determined to stand as conservative icon William F. Buckley implored, athwart history shouting, "Halt!"
That's fine for those who believe that, as President Ronald Reagan once declared, "government is the problem." But those who think government should be part of the solution in these hard economic times will take that Reagan reasoning and "refudiate" it.