Free Markets, Free People

Harris Interactive


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