Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: February 24, 2010


Reading the polls

A couple of interesting polls to note today.  The first concerns labor union popularity.  They aren’t.  Popular that is.  Or at least not at all as popular as they once were.  Pew reports:

Favorable views of labor unions have plummeted since 2007, amid growing public skepticism about unions’ purpose and power. Currently, 41% say they have a favorable opinion of labor unions while about as many (42%) express an unfavorable opinion. In January 2007, a clear majority (58%) had a favorable view of unions while just 31% had an unfavorable impression.

Those are the worst favorables for labor unions since 1985 (and lower than even that year).  A majority of Democrats still have a favorable view of unions (56%) while Republicans (29%) and the all important independents (38%) don’t.  My guess is the dramatic and highly visible political role played by unions in the 2008 presidential election (especially the SEIU which is also linked with the ever popular ACORN) as well as their role in trying to pack town halls to freeze out protesters this last summer have contributed to the unfavorable view labor unions now enjoy.  And, of course, government handing over majority ownership to unions in the GM and Chrysler bailouts also had a hand in driving their favorables down as that was seen as a pretty blatant political payoff.  This poll is another indication that Americans are indeed watching what has been going on, are aware of what has happened and don’t like it at all.

Speaking of government, or at least one branch of it, Rasmussen has its poll on Congressional approval out.  Unsurprisingly Congress has achieved new record lows.

Voter unhappiness with Congress has reached the highest level ever recorded by Rasmussen Reports as 71% now say the legislature is doing a poor job.

That’s up ten points from the previous high of 61% reached a month ago.

10 points?  In a month? That’s not a decline.  That’s freefall.  And it couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.  But the message is found in some of the responses within the poll.  For instance:

Nearly half of Democratic voters (48%) now give Congress a poor rating, up 17 points since January.

That 48% is probably upset that the Democratic Congress hasn’t delivered on it’s promised agenda. While that certainly adds to the overall unfavorable rating, it’s one that could flip in an instant should that agenda be muscled through (something that seems less and less likely now).

Seventy percent (70%) of voters say Congress has not passed any legislation that would significantly improve life for Americans, up 10 points over the past month and the highest level of dissatisfaction measured in regular tracking in over three years.

Again, part of that is probably that 48% Democrats not happy that the agenda is stalled. And that could include a portion of liberal leaning indies as well. But:

Forty percent (40%) of voters nationwide now say it is at least somewhat likely Congress will seriously address the most important issues facing the nation. That’s down from 59% last March. Only 9% say it is Very Likely Congress will address these issues.

Any guess what the “most important issues facing the nation” are?

Well it’s not health care:

As Congress continues to hash out the health care reform plan proposed by the president and Congressional Democrats, just 41% of voters favor the plan while 56% are opposed. Sixty-three percent (63%) of all voters say a better strategy to reform the health care system would be to pass smaller bills that address problems individually.

In fact, as Joe Biden has said, “it’s three letters. J.O.B.S.”. It is the economy and jobs. What is becoming increasingly clear is the administration and Congress have no idea how to get that done – well, except creating government jobs.

But before Congressional Democrats get all giddy thinking they can turn these numbers by pushing their agenda through come hell or high water, they need to again try to understand the present mood of the electorate – the mood they – the presently serving members of Congress on both sides – have helped create:

Other recent polling also reflects voter disappointment in Congress. Earlier this month, 63% of voters said it would be better for the country if most incumbents in Congress were defeated this November. Just 27% of voters say their representative in Congress is the best possible person for the job.

Three out of four voters (75%) report being at least somewhat angry at the policies of the federal government. Part of the frustration is likely due to the belief of 60% of voters that neither Republican political leaders nor Democratic political leaders have a good understanding of what is needed today.

Still, voters believe Democrats are more likely than Republicans to have a plan for the future.

Regardless of which political side voters are on, just 21% believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed.

Read all of that carefully – that’s the rest of the Tea Party iceberg uncovered for you. As I’ve been saying for a year, the economic and financial meltdown and the government’s reaction was more than enough to jar the population from it’s complacency. Politicians still haven’t figured that out even though protesters and polls have been loudly announcing it for months. Congress and government in general is considered to out-of-touch and out of control. The dissatisfaction is focused on the Democrats at the moment because they represent the government establishment now, but it is clearly a dissatisfaction that crosses party lines. And I’m not sure the GOP has figured it out anymore than have the Democrats.

And while the GOP leads in the generic poll, the perception of Congress and the politicians therein is not a pretty one:

Just 9% of voters believe most members of Congress are genuinely interested in helping people, which ties the recent low in December. Eighty-one percent (81%) say most members of Congress are more interested in their own careers, a new multi-year high.

The plurality of voters (42%) continues to believe most members of Congress are corrupt, a result that has remained fairly consistent over the past several months. One in three U.S. voters (32%) does not see most congressmen as corrupt. Another 26% are undecided.

It’s why I continue to think that the first Tuesday night in November will be “must see TV”. Will this dissatisfaction manifest itself in the voting booth? And if it does, what will be the outcome for the next Congress?

More importantly what if it doesn’t? Is there enough anger and discontent out there to drive people to the voting booth?  And if it doesn’t, won’t we then get precisely what we deserve? And finally, if we get what we deserve, won’t politicians rightly surmise they can ignore the public for the most part since there’s really no penalty for doing so?

~McQ


Russia: How’s that “reset button” working?

The push for international support for tougher sanctions against Iran seem to be going well with our good friends in Russia:

Russia will not support “crippling” sanctions against Iran, including any that may be slapped on the Islamic Republic’s banking or energy sectors, a senior Russian diplomat said Wednesday.

[...]

“We are not got going to work on sanctions or measures which could lead to the political or economic or financial isolation of this country,” Oleg Rozhkov, deputy director of the security affairs and disarmament department at Russia’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters.

“What relation to non-proliferation is there in forbidding banking activities with Iran? This is a financial blockade. And oil and gas. These sanctions are aimed only at paralyzing the country and paralyzing the regime.”

Well, yeah – that’s sort of the point of sanctions. Short of that, there are few options left to force Iran to comply with the will of the international community – such that it is. And this is one of the failings of the Obama administration’s approach.

You have to sort of root around to find that approach spelled out, but the clearest indication of how the administration approaches foreign policy is actually found in the DoD’s recently released Quarterly Defense Review. One sentence tells it all:

“America’s interests are inextricably linked to the integrity and resilience of the international system.”

In the past, US presidents have realized that, “the integrity of the international system depends upon the resilience of American power.”

The Obama administration (and this explains much of his world apology tour) has flipped that now putting “American power” second to the will and “integrity” of the “international system”.  As the article cited notes, Obama wants a “quiet world” so he can concentrate on his domestic agenda.  One way to do that is cede the US’s leadership role.

You can see how well that approach is working. Russia has just demonstrated the “integrity” of the “international system” by saying “no”. I wonder if Obama will call them obstructionists and “the country of ‘no’.”

Seriously though, this is quite a step back from the American leadership of the past, and it will have consequences. That statement in the QDR cedes our former position as the supposed leader of the free world to organizations like the UN. That has been a dream of the liberal left for decades. And as you read through the article I’ve cited for the QDR quote, look at the analysis that says that the plan reduces the American role in world by “disarming” us and structuring our military for a lesser role.

Russia is just the first of many nations which are going to defy the US’s attempts at pushing its foreign policy throughout the world because, essentially, there is no down side to doing so. We’re a weakened debtor nation (Putin recently consoled EU economic basket case Greece by pointing out the US is in the same boat) that has made it pretty clear that it won’t act without clear consensus from the “international system” this administration seems to love. Russia is obviously a part of that system and doesn’t mind at all stepping up and saying no. And China? Well, if Russia is this blatant and blunt about denying what the US wants, you can imagine China’s position.

Like I said, 2009 was the year of taking this administration’s measure on the foreign policy front. 2010 is the year that those sensing a power/leadership vacuum inherent in this US pullback attempt to fill it. Russia’s just the first to step up to the plate. We’ll hear from China soon.

~McQ


Vanity Fair Discovers Opposition Sells

Way back during the Bush years, we saw the rise of the netroots premised on the idea that Bush was the worst thing that had ever happened to America. Also boosted by the Bush years was the circulation of liberal magazines. The passion of the opposition was readily apparent to anyone who took the time to read either the liberal blogs or pubs.

That was then, this is now. Suddenly the opposition came to power and instead of spending their days throwing bombs and spit wads, they’ve had to defend what they helped bring about – a seemingly inept and drifting administration focused on the wrong things (they’re having a “health care reform” summit today, instead of talking about jobs) in a time of economic downturn and joblessness.

Vanity Fair has “discovered” that “hate sells”. It sold throughout the Bush years and now it is selling in the Obama years. Liberal magazine circulation is down from their Bush hating highs and conservative magazine circulation is up. I don’t know if it is true, but I’d guess that liberal blogs are suffering a bit of a downturn too. It is much easier to criticize (and I’ll be the first to admit that as I do it daily and find plenty of fodder for such criticism) than to defend. And criticism is usually much more passionate and seems to draw more passionate responses than does a defense.

What has happened to the liberals is they’ve gone from being the opposition – their usual position – to the establishment. They’re not comfortable (or particularly good) with being the establishment. They’re also not comfortable with having to defend their positions as they try to put them into effect via law. What they’re finding is it’s no fun being the establishment, and it is many times hard to summon the passion to defend their actions and ideas when they’re under assault from all sides.

One of the things these circulation numbers tell us as they swing from one side to the other is the measure of the “enthusiasm gap” (that all important gap that usually indicates which party’s GOTV effort will turn out the most voters in any upcoming election). As has been the case depending on which party holds the White House or Congress, there is usually more enthusiasm on the opposition’s side than on the establishment’s side. That seems to be the case now.  Welcome to American politics. In fact, it is nothing new and should the GOP capture Congress or Obama be a one-term president, the left will rise again.

In the meantime, they learn what it is like to be on the receiving end of what they dealt for 8 years. But they should also understand that the passion has deserted the left and now resides more on the right (although the Tea Parties indicate a bit of a wild card). And they know full well what that tends to mean in terms of politics and elections. The circulation numbers cited by Vanity Fair are only an indicator of that.

~McQ