Free Markets, Free People
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.
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 %|
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.
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.
Along with his credibility. When the House bill on health care (H 3200) came out, anyone who read the bill, to include Republicans, noted that it planned to pay for much of what was offered through Medicare cuts. And, in speeches and talks following that, President Obama said that he wanted to “end subsidies” to Medicare Advantage, a Medicare supplemental program very popular with those using Medicare (because it covers what Medicare doesn’t).
Even the CBO has come out, as noted yesterday, and said what President Obama is talking about when it comes to Medicare will cut the level of benefits for Medicare users.
Be that as it may, and as he has in many things, he claims everyone else is wrong, he’s right and those disagreeing with him are simply doing it for political purposes. In talking points distributed by the White House today, they say:
Talking Points: Republicans’ Disingenuous Scare Tactics on Medicare
• Recently, as part of an ongoing effort to revive their political fortunes by killing health insurance reform, many Republicans have been attempting to scare America’s seniors with false myths about what reform would mean for Medicare.
• These distortions and outright falsehoods would be offensive under any circumstances, but they’re especially disingenuous coming from a group who has a long history of opposing Medicare and who very recently tried to kill the program as we know it.
• Just this past April, nearly four-fifths of Republican House members voted to end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program that provides a fixed sum of money to buy private insurance.
• And this most recent assault on Medicare is just the latest in a war Republicans have been waging on the program for decades.
They also attempt to spin away the CBO finding that benefits will indeed be cut and they further attempt to justify the Medicare Advantage cuts.
But this just isn’t selling to those at whom it’s aimed.
Gallup reports that seniors 65 and older are the demographic with the largest percentage against the reform being offered. By a margin of 10% (42% to 32%) they oppose it.
I think it is pretty safe to say that seniors, at this point, don’t trust the Democrats and certainly aren’t now going to buy into the old “Republicans are using scare tactics” canard. Nor are seniors going to be mollified by claims that Medicare Advantage “overcharges” and therefore should be eliminated.
I’ve talked about the erosion of independent support for the administration and Democrats in general. If the Democrats want to ensure a minority in the Congress in 2010, continue to alienate the seniors as they are presently doing and they’ll get their desire. And that might also mean 2012 won’t be looking so hot for them either.
This is a demographic which knows their issues (especially health care) and votes them. Screw with this program (and yeah it’s ironic that we’re talking about leaving a government program alone, but again, since they don’t have a choice, that says nothing about its quality or efficiency) and you can almost bet the house (pun intended) that 2010 will find a new majority in one of the chambers of Congress.
Yeah, it’s a provocative title, but it is certainly a way to interpret what the latest Gallup poll indicates:
A new Gallup Poll finds that 68% of Americans believe their federal income taxes will be higher by the time Barack Obama’s first term as president ends. This includes 35% who say their taxes will be “a lot higher.”
It is also another indication of why Obama’s job approval numbers are tanking and why Americans, using the only real outlet available to some of them, i.e. townhalls, appear angry.
They simply don’t trust a thing this administration and the Congress is putting out there. The irony, of course, is that the Democrats and Obama thought that circumstance had handed them the perfect political storm with which to pass huge social programs liberals had dreamed of for decades. They had a crisis and, as Rahm Emanuel said, they weren’t going to let it go to waste.
But it has doubled back on them in a fairly quick and dramatic way. Suddenly, in the crisis fever they whipped up, people who were normally uninterested in politics started paying attention. And what they saw didn’t please them. They saw the federal government pumping unheard of amounts of borrowed money into various black holes, taking over whole industries and parts of others and planning on taking over even more, such as health care. That, all while telling us what we knew was intuitively and historically false – they’d run them more efficiently and effectively than the private side could.
It was a huge wake-up call for the American public, formerly known as the slowly and quiescently boiling frog. That level of activity, money and government intervention in a short 6 to 8 month period grabbed the public’s attention and, even in short attention span America, has kept it.
Democrats and the administration reacted badly. And they continue to do so. Falsely believing they had some sort of mandate to act as they wished, they’ve completely blown the health care debate. As Greg Lyons notes at Salon – Salon for heaven sake – “you won’t win the healthcare debate by calling people stupid racists”. But that seems to be the Dem game plan. And again we’re treated to the delicious irony of Democrats calling for “civil debate” while characterizing Americans who disagree with them as “political terrorists”, “brownshirts” and “un-American.”
Yes, this has turned into a perfect storm alright, but not at all the one the Democrats and administration thought they were going to get to exploit. And I can’t say I’m displeased about that in the least.