Friday, July 27, 2007

A Cause For Alarm

For Both parties:

Voters Disapprove of Democratic Congress, but Dislike GOP Even More

Halfway through the first year of the first Democratic-controlled Congress in a dozen years, there is such widespread public dissatisfaction with its performance that Democrats can be thankful they will be opposed in next year’s elections by Republicans who generally are viewed even less favorably than they are. If there was an up-or-down, referendum-style vote on their brief leadership of Congress, Democrats would be in deep trouble.
The release Thursday of the latest bipartisan “Battleground 2008” survey included sobering if not alarming news for members of Congress in both parties. A majority of respondents (52 percent) disapproved of the Democratic-led Congress — but even greater majorities disapproved of the job performances of congressional Republicans (61 percent) and President Bush (61 percent). The poll is sponsored by George Washington University and was conducted of 1,000 registered likely voters on July 15-18 by the Democratic firm Lake Research Partners and the Republican firm The Tarrance Group.
Perhaps the most startling finding in the survey was that 70 percent of respondents said that the country was on the “wrong track” — higher than the 64 percent of respondents who said that in January, when the last Battleground survey was conducted. Seven out of ten respondents also said that their individual member of Congress “puts partisan politics first,” compared with just one in five who said their representative “puts me first.”
The survey found that voters prefer Democrats to Republicans on nearly every major policy issue — usually by wide margins. Democrats held double-digit leads over Republicans when respondents were asked which party would “do a better job of handling” the Iraq war, jobs, energy independence, the federal budget deficit, Social Security, political corruption in Washington, D.C., and health care. Republicans held a 13-percentage-point lead on combating terrorism — the GOP’s biggest edge on any issue — and narrow advantages over Democrats on “moral values” and curbing illegal immigration.
The Iraq war continues to be the most dominant issue, and voters said by a 53 percent to 43 percent margin that the war is not “worth fighting.” The predominant explanation for the Democratic-controlled Congress’ mediocre public approval ratings is that voters think that Democrats have not challenged Bush enough on Iraq policy, according to the survey. Voters also think a Democratic-run Congress should have accomplished more by now.
Brian Nienaber, a Tarrance vice president who appeared with Lake at Thursday’s presentation, noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California have higher unfavorability ratings than they did in January, when the current 110th Congress convened.
“Democrats look good, frankly, only relative to Republicans,” Lake said. She later added: “Thank God it’s a contrast, and not just an up-or-down vote . . . It’s not like people are going to fire us for the Republicans. But we’ve got to work hard to get them more enthusiastic about re-electing us.”

This should be disheartening for both groups. The public prefers Democrats, but still thinks they're not much good either. As Lake herself says, "we look good only compared to Republicans." And considering the different ways that the parties view themselves and their opponents, this says quite a bit. What does this all mean? Well, it means several different things:

1) If you run on a platform of "change", you actually have to change something. Democrats offered nothing to the American public except a fuzzy promise to "change course", and rightly pointing out the flaws of the Republican candidates. So, with a Democratic congress, and a President sympathetic to them on a lot of issues, there's no reason they can't have gotten more done. Instead of doing "non-binding resolutions", offer the people something.
2) If you're going to run on a platform of "we're not as corrupt as the other guy" can't be as corrupt as the other guy. Within days of her ascention to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi was demanding a bigger jet than her Republican predecessor. And she was nominating the two most corrupt guys in teh House for high level positions.
3) The GOP is seen as pathetic by it's own members. With the immigration nonsense, they completely alienated their base. Seeing as conservatives tend to be closed border types, Republicans have to go with their base. But there's not a lot of support from powerful left wing groups for open borders either. Labor unions were furious, and whenever unions are unhappy, the left takes a hit.
4) As Lake notes, a third party candidate, if they join, will determine the election. There's no way they'll get elected, but if he jumps in the race, Bloomburg may have the effect on the left that Perot had on Bush Sr., syphining off just enough dissatisfied right wingers, that Clinton was able to get the White House.
5) We have a ridiculous amount of anger on both sides of the aisle. Something has to give somewhere. While, at this point, it's laughable to consider a third party candidate, if we get the same batch of crap in '08, it suddenly won't be so funny and will start to look like a serious possibility.

THAT should give both sides something to think about.

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