Free Markets, Free People

Are conservative ideas in the ascendency?

For all those on the progressive side expecting a miracle to take place on Nov. 2nd and sweep the polling places clear of those pesky right-wing nut-jobs, I hate to disappoint you.  Instead, you need to concentrate on the size of the sweep that will take place – will it be a ripple?  A wave?  Or a tsunami?

Frankly, it’s beginning to look a bit like a tsunami is possible.  In 1994, in what is popularly considered a “blow out” in political circles, the GOP took 54 House seats back in the mid-term elections. 

 

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Take a look at these comparisons (which obviously include “committed” independents in the “lean” categories).  Compare 1994 and 2010.  Note two things – 1) there’s a 6+ point difference between then and now favoring the Republicans.  2) Among independents, all but a few (and much fewer than in 1994) are not already committed (meaning there isn’t likely to be a sudden “surge” of indies going left in the remaining few days to swing the elections over to the Dems).

Last, but not least, look at the self-identified categories at the bottom.  In all categories but “moderate” there has been growth.  Most would argue this demonstrates the polarization of our polity.  I’d agree.  Moderates have lost 16 points since 1994.  Liberals have gained 8, as have conservatives.  However, the conservatives hold a decided edge over liberals.  What that means is liberals need moderates much more than conservatives do.  And it is the moderates and independents who are right now rejecting the liberals in Congress.

The point conservatives should take away from this is – at least as this poll demonstrates –  that their ideas are winning.  And to me, that says they have the backing to aggressively pursue their agenda. Note I said “aggressively”, not stupidly, or arrogantly or, well choose your own modifier and count on them to find a way to screw it up.  Wisely may be a better way of saying it.

What do I mean by that?  Here’s another survey to consider from Harris Interactive.  It is the “right direction/wrong direction” poll for the country you see from various polling firms.  To me it best indicates what is and has been going on within the polity for quite some time.  What it also indicates is this anger and frustration isn’t new nor is it necessarily aimed at the current President or Congress.  Instead it is something which has been existent for a long time and is finally coming to a head, driven most likely by the economic conditions, government overreach and fiscal profligacy:

 

YEAR   Right Dir % Wrong Dir %
2010 Oct 34 66
  Sep 36 64
  Aug 35 65
  Jun 34 66
  Apr 39 61
  Mar 33 67
2009 Dec 37 63
  Aug 46 54
  Mar 32 68
  Jan 19 72
2008 Oct 11 83
  Feb 23 69
2007 Dec 18 74
  Feb 29 62
2006 May 24 69
  Feb 32 59

1997 Dec 39 56
  Apr 36 55
1996 Dec 38 50
  Jun 29 64
1995 Dec 26 62
  Jun 24 65
1994 Dec 29 63
  Jun 28 65
1993 Jun 21 70
  Mar 39 50
1992 Jun 12 81
  Jan 20 75

Note that 1994 was the big wave GOP takeover of the House during the Clinton years.  And during the lead up, you saw the percentage dissatisfaction with the direction of the country as high as 81% – only exceeded by the 83% during the Bush era in October of 2008 – a month before the national presidential election.

Some may write this off to a cynical public, two-thirds of whom always see the glass as half-empty.  But I think it goes much deeper than that to a public that has become increasingly aware that the premise on which this country was founded is being systematically betrayed by those engaged in governance.  And, as the chart demonstrates, that belief isn’t held exclusively to one party.  When the GOP was seen as betraying their principles, they too were seen as putting the country on the wrong track.

You may look at the chart and say, “ wait a minute, how do you conclude that – the public seems equally disenchanted with both sides given the numbers.”  I’d point back to the other chart showing “conservatives” with 48% and rising and say there hasn’t been much in the way of “conservative” governance in the last 20 years.  That’s why, for the most part, the “wrong track” remains consistent through both GOP and Democrat administrations.   Democrats thought it was because of a disenchantment with the GOP.   The GOP thought it was because the Democrats over reached.  In fact, it was both of these and the fact that neither the GOP or the Democrats (particularly the Democrats) were conservative enough.

What you see now, driven by obvious unfettered and unacceptable deficit spending, government intrusion and takeovers is that anger and frustration finally boiling over.  It is, of course, enabled by out technology today, but it is truly grass-roots (despite the best efforts of the left to characterize it as otherwise).   And that’s what both mystifies and terrifies politicians.  A finger in the wind doesn’t work so well right now.  Despite incredible attempts to demonize them, ordinary people are standing up in town hall meetings and demanding answers to questions that politicians would prefer to avoid.  There’s heckling at “debates”.  Even violence (on both sides – as the left goes batsh*t crazy over the “head stomping”, let’s not forget the older gentleman at the Tea Party rally who had his finger bitten off by an SEIU thug). 

It points to a restive populace tired of the same old promises, same old problems and same old “fixes”.   An interesting phenomenon is occurring that has many political observers on both the left and the right scratching their heads as they try to understand it.  We’re seeing the creation of spontaneous order at a grass-roots level of citizens who’ve had enough of business as usual.  It scares the establishment to death.  And that, folks, is healthy.  The citizenry needs to keep our politicians in that state constantly. 

Then – perhaps – they might figure out what it is the citizens of this country really want out of their government.  And unless I’ve read it wrong, it isn’t the bloated, intrusive, hugely expensive and profligate mess they’ve created.  Mr. Obama needs to learn that the country doesn’t think “government is cool” – only necessary.  And that necessity needs to be tempered and quickly.  Until it is, he and all politicians can count on continuing to see exactly what they see today in direction of the country polls and outspoken voter discontent – no matter which party they represent.

~McQ

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18 Responses to Are conservative ideas in the ascendency?

  • We’re seeing the creation of spontaneous order at a grass-roots level of citizens who’ve had enough of business as usual

    >>>>> It’s WHO those citizens are that is really scaring the pols.  These are average, regular people. People who have not really been politically involved to this degree before.  These are not professional community organizers. They’re not Moveon hacks. They’re not union thugs or International ANSWERS rent-a-mob of illegals. And they’re certainly not astroturf. It’s the law-abiding, “I just want to live my life and provide for my family”  middle class who have been largely silent for decades. The people who maybe would vote, maybe would stay home, but would definitely not ever pipe up and engage. 

  • Spontaneous order is the key observation.
    Most of the public is not ideological. There are 300 million reasons why people vote for candidate A over B, or why they call themselves Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, libertarians or don’t vote at all. Like any large group, 80%  of the work is done by 20% of the members. That rule holds true 80% of the time.
    We don’t live in that comfortable 80% normalcy today. Lots of people decry how poorly educated Americans are about civics. But if you get 100 random Americans in one room, they will agree on the Big Ideas: liberty, justice and practicality (ie the American way). Americans share common goals, but often differ in the means to achieve or maintain those goals. The Democrats have promised solutions and failed to deliver. While some might argue they haven’t been given enough time to fix the car, it appears the voters are satisfied that what’s on offer is not working. It’s time to change the players.
    Two related observations.
    1. The news media has provided the background to the failure of the Democrats. What’s been the top of the pops for the past two years. HOW BAD EVERYTHING IS. At some point, the daily dose of disaster: war, bankruptcies, failed banks, huge deficits, impending tax doom, persistently high unemployment, cats and dogs living together;  has to have an effect on the listening public. Lots of those headlines are exaggerations to sell newspapers, but when the daily dose consists of WE ARE ALL DOOMED in 72 point type, most people aren’t going to think about the fact that this is not the Great Depression. Most Americans think that if they go to work each day and take care of their families, other things will generally take care of themselves. Now they see that’s not happening anymore. Is it any wonder the peasants are now arming themselves with torches and pitchforks?
    2. The Democrats present a cautionary tale for the Republicans. Don’t assume passing a law is a solution.

    • Plus, people now understand that the MSM has an agenda. The low information voters who did the feel-good voting of 2008, just tune out. The smarter ones feel betrayed and start thinking harder. The ones who supported Bush a little too much (mea culpa) realize they screwed up and vow to pay more attention to actual policy than football team politics. When its the 4th quarter and clock is winding down, the mind concentrates wonderfully.

  •  
    And the more the “average” voter learns certain facts, the more their “mental models” change. They are in a situation where they are open to changing their mental models. This could be key going forward for promoting small government policies.
    For example, when you show even lefties in CA that a California Highway Patrol sergeant managed to make $340,000 / year in 2009 (in 2008, he only made $ 162,000 – LOL) the light bulb start to go off a little bit. The next time a politicians says spending cuts would reduce police on the beat, it does not resonate. They start to question spending not just knee jerk agree to taxes.  On my facebook page, I don’t post political stuff – except for when I can just drop a  basic fact like that one to stand by itself.  Its from the state database -and not disputable. Its stands alone without commentary, letting everyone draw their own conclusion. K
    The Tea Party is ahead of the curve on that stuff, way ahead. Because cutting spending temporarily is not a real fix – returning to constitutional precepts on the role of government is. However, I think some folks will be hard to convince, until reality starts to bite. MA and CA will be leaders in this, as the Democrats same-old same-old strategies won’t work. (and if a “new democrat” comes out of this that is fiscally conservative, so much the better.) The working and middle class start to worry, not about the potential benefits of government largesse, but for their livelihood. Its not voting against your interest to have economic growth that keeps you and your family employed, fed, and housed.
     

    • A return to fiscally conservative Democrat won’t occur until
      1) the older hippies start dying off, and
      2) George Soros dies.

      #1 is 10 years away before a serious die off even starts
      BTW, I just learned good old George has a foundation targetting the Secretary of State office for most of the States for the purpose of stopping the Republicans from interfering with illegal voting.      

  • 1994 brought in a wave of conservative rhetoric.  It didn’t result in a wave of small government legislation.  I haven’t seen anything this time that really makes me thing the Republicans who will probably be elected this time will be any different.

    • If that’s the case, two words:  “3rd Party”

    • Dick Armey mentioned something important. The margin counts. So if the marginal votes in the Senate and House are Tea Party idealists, it will influence policy. Just like the Maine sisters scared the bejeesus out of us, and gave hope to the Dems (and blue dogs vice versa) if there are enough actually principled candidates it can still work. Jim de Mint and Coburn are awesome. Now add just 5 more like that and the Senate has a stumbling block for business as usual.

    • I don’t disagree, Tito – and that’s the point we here have been trying very hard to make to establishment Republicans.

  • That “right/wrong” direction chart is interesting.  The numbers for late 1996 through 1997 show a high mark of 36-39% thinking that we were headed in the right direction, and if I’m not mistaken those were the years when the internet bubble was showering money and jobs onto people’s heads at what seemed an unstoppable pace.  And even then, more than half of those polled felt we were going in the wrong direction.  Is it due to a keen sense of perception (ie, recognizing that a speculative bubble was a bad idea) or is it that Americans in general have become so cynical that we’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop?

    • Evolutionary biology. The sunny optimist who did not stock up extra food for the winter and instead smelled the flower died off, while the OCD pessimist who works way too much and stored too much lives to breed.

  • McQThe point conservatives should take away from this is – at least as this poll demonstrates –  that their ideas are winning.  And to me, that says they have the backing to aggressively pursue their agenda. Note I said “aggressively”, not stupidly, or arrogantly or, well choose your own modifier and count on them to find a way to screw it up.  Wisely may be a better way of saying it.

    Maybe.  I suggest an alternate explanation: the public is utterly sick of the dems, who have shown themselves to be arrogant, feckless, and perhaps even power-hungry to a frightening degree.  There’s only one real alternative to voting (d), and that’s voting (R).  “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  If this is the case, then the GOP must be quite careful about pushing its agenda.

    Whatever that might be, I should say.  I’m pretty sure that, for must GOP politicians, the agenda starts and ends with “get reelected”, and they’ll pretty much do or say whatever it takes to fulfil that agenda (e.g. Charlie Crist, Lisa Murkowski, Arlen Spector).  That means rewarding their deep-pocketted donors through favorable laws and regulations as well as buying votes through earmarks and pork barrel spending, i.e. business as usual.

    For rank-and-file Republicans and especially all those independents, the agenda is much more diffuse*.  This will be the rub: how to cut government spending – which is the real issue of the moment – without cutting too much.  I don’t think that a majority of the country has quite reached the point where (for example) abolishing or even significantly cutting Social Security, Medicare, and the other entitlements that are breaking our backs is a viable policy goal.  Indeed, I’m not sure that abolishing PBS or the Department of Education would fly.  We should also remember that, as far as MiniTru is concerned, any INCREASE is such programs that isn’t as large as democrats want is a “cut” that ALWAYS hits women, children and minorities hardest.

    It’s going to be REAL interesting come January!

    —-

    (*) I tend to side with people like Rush who regard “independents” as people who are so ignorant / apathetic that they don’t really know which side they are on and really don’t care until they can be whipped out of their lethargy by things getting to be so bad that they’ll vote for whoever ISN’T in charge at the moment.

    • Yes, Rush is right. But now there is a no BS metric: is the economy doing better?
      If the GOP get elected and then do nothing (most likely due to Obama veto) will they be blamed?
      Clinton managed to turn the tables. I am not so sure it will work this time.

      • Can they resist the temptation of stupid grandstanding gestures? The 1994 revolution failed in part because of Gingrich’s hubris. How someone so smart, could be so unwise, still leaves me stupefied.
        I think we’ve got some positive things going for us this time.
        1. Obama (need I say more, the guy is no Clinton)
        2. Boehner is not a personality. He’s some guy in a grey suit. Self effacing humility is a good start.
        3. The tea party ethos. Unlike 1994 when the Rs were handed the keys and the voters assumed they would “do good”, the unspoken motto of the tea party is more like “trust but count the silverware”.
        4. If Boehner actually follows through on his approach of breaking appropriations down into smaller discrete line items he deprives the President of headline battles over “Medicare” and changes the terms of the debate.
        5. The class of 1994 was more or less conventional Reagan Republican politicians. The current crop is composed of more outsiders than normal. Plus, quite a few are veterans. I predict that the presence of those veterans is going to have more of an impact than people suspect today.
        6. The economy is starting to expand. Sure it’s slow but growth is growth. This will enable both sides to claim “victory” for their policies in 2012.
        7. It’s possible, though not probable, that the Republicans might be able to paint the President as being an obstructionist.
         

        • I would also suggest adding Mitch McConnell.  The man appears to be an utterly colorless functionary who nevertheless seems able to hold his caucus together.  What a refreshing change from the gaffe-prone, live-action Foghorn Leghorn Trent Lott and the bumbling Bill Frist.

          Steve C.[T]he unspoken motto of the tea party is more like “trust but count the silverware”.

          But where to go if the silverware starts turning up missing?  Answer: shark‘s “third party”.

    • “people like Rush who regard “independents” as people who are so ignorant / apathetic that they don’t really know which side they are on and really don’t care”


      doesn’t match
       
      “Maybe.  I suggest an alternate explanation: the public is utterly sick of the dems, who have shown themselves to be arrogant, feckless, and perhaps even power-hungry to a frightening degree.  There’s only one real alternative to voting (d), and that’s voting (R).  “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  If this is the case, then the GOP must be quite careful about pushing its agenda.
      Whatever that might be, I should say.  I’m pretty sure that, for must GOP politicians, the agenda starts and ends with “get reelected”, and they’ll pretty much do or say whatever it takes to fulfil that agenda (e.g. Charlie Crist, Lisa Murkowski, Arlen Spector).  That means rewarding their deep-pocketted donors through favorable laws and regulations as well as buying votes through earmarks and pork barrel spending, i.e. business as usual.”
       
      You expressed the reason for my being an independent, captured it perfectly.   I’m not sure how you can agree with Rush based on the top 2 paragraphs.     To show how enthusiastic and intelligent the Republicans were in 2008, they offered me John McCain as my alternative to Barack Obama.

  • I would like to see a balance in the House and Senate so maybe this country can move forward.

    • We need to back the truck up a bit before it goes any further “forward”.
      Once we’ve reduced the size of government and it’s creep into our lives and sorted out that Congress can’t do anything it pleases and claim it’s all good because of the “commerce” or “general welfare” clauses of the Constitution…we can talk about forward.