Voters “for” GOP or “against” Democrats?
If Gallup is right about this poll, the GOP needs to understand much of the basis of its so-called” support, because it will be critical to their success in the next 2 years:
The Republicans’ lead in the congressional generic ballot over the past month may be due as much to voters’ rejecting the Democrats as embracing the Republicans. Among voters backing Republican candidates, 44% say their preference is "more a vote against the Democratic candidate," while 48% say it is "more a vote for the Republican candidate."
This is very important to understand, because, in my estimation, this is precisely the scenario that played out when Democrats took a majority in both houses of Congress and the Presidency.
Then the vote wasn’t so much a validation of the Democrats and their agenda as it was a rejection of all things Republican. The majority of the nation was sick of Republicans and their agenda as much as anything.
In politics the pendulum swings. Democrats were given a chance because the populace was unimpressed with what the GOP had done with its chance. And, given the way the two parties have essentially ensured no real competition from a third party can ever really upset their chances, the only viable choice was Democrats.
It is one reason you see these “purges” within the parties going on influenced by the more radical elements of their movement – such as the Kossaks and “progressives” on the left, and the Tea Party on the right.
In both cases, each movement has taken what is available and attempted to shape it in its own image (and focused on its own agenda). This is a natural polarization driven by dissatisfaction with the status quo on both sides, obviously.
As we’ve seen in the last 20 months, the “progressive” agenda has failed spectacularly. Not in the amount and type of legislation they’ve managed to pass – when you have majorities like they had, it’s no surprise at all. But in how the public has received those laws. That’s because the left misread the election of 2008 as a mandate given by an electorate that they thought had embraced their “progressive” agenda. As the polls tell us now, that wasn’t at all the case. The proof of that is the mass movement of independents away from the Democrats and the rise of the Tea Parties.
The GOP faces the same dilemma. It is going to win in November, but what is it going to win? A mandate? For what? Answering those questions is akin to stepping through a minefield blindfolded. What are Americans looking for in the coming Republican legislative wave?
If Republicans don’t have answers to that question and don’t realize that they’re getting as much the “anti-Democrat” vote as the “we want Republicans” vote, they’re in for a short tenure as a majority in the House.
Let me lay out a few things that I don’t think the people want:
1. They don’t want endless partisan “investigations”. I’ve seen reports that claim that one of the GOP priorities in the House will be all manner of these. There are certainly instances where certain things should and must be investigated – but such investigations should be limited and also obviously issues in need of investigation.
2. They don’t want just “no” as an answer to everything. Look, there are definitely principled stands that must be taken concerning fiscal matter where the appropriate and only answer is “no”. But there are plenty of things which need a “yes”. Standing up and saying “no” to everything the administration advances only hands the Democrats a tool to use against the GOP in 2012. The GOP must advance some sort of legislative agenda that is clear, limited and founded within the principles the party espouses about cutting spending, limiting government and being fiscally conservative. Anything that the administration advances that fits these principles should be embraced.
3. They don’t want endless politics. I.e. the political theater. My goodness, some of these people get more camera time than many Hollywood stars. They need to shut up, do their job, and effectively tell their story at the appropriate time and in effective and generally understandable way. They don’t have to have an opinion about everything everyday. The more time they spend in front of a camera the more time they have to say something foolish and have that become the story of the day vs. discussions of issues that are actually important. Take a break – enforce a little self-discipline – and stick with topics in which you may have some actual expertise.
If I read what I’m hearing and seeing out there, there is a sense among the general population that government – not just Democrats – has been headed in the wrong direction for quite some time. If you follow the trends of the “is the country on the right track” polling, you know it hasn’t changed significantly since Democrats have taken power from the Republicans.
The conventional wisdom was that once the Democrats swept into power, all would be fine and we’d be on the right track. That CW was, of course, pundit and media driven. However the majority of Americans blew that out of the water fairly quickly. But that finding supports the polling Gallup has above. Republicans are going to get another chance because they’re the only viable choice left after voters kick out the Democrats – not because the voters are significantly in love with or necessarily excited about the GOP.
So, fair warning to Republicans – don’t misinterpret this coming vote as did Democrats in 2008. It’s no mandate, it’s a “lesser of two evils” vote – unfortunately a common vote in all elections anymore. Understand that and understand that the GOP is a getting another 2 year trial to see if they’ve learned their lessons. Voters are angry, fearful and unsatisfied with the direction of the country. Much of that is wrapped up in the size, scope and cost of government. They understand that if they ran their household as the government runs its business, they’d be bankrupt, homeless and in the street. They’re looking for some common sense in DC, a dial-back of the size and scope of government and budgets that reflect sanity, reduce the deficit and help unshackle their grandchildren from the financial slavery this present bunch is selling them into.
Do that and Republicans may get an extension in 2012 to continue their work.