Monday, April 17, 2006

Deep Doo-doo

From the Washington Post:

Intense and widespread opposition to President Bush is likely to be a sharp spur driving voters to the polls in this fall’s midterm elections, according to strategists in both parties, a phenomenon that could give Democrats a turnout advantage over Republicans for the first time in recent years.

Polls have reflected voter discontent with Bush for many months, but as the election nears, operatives are paying special attention to one subset of the numbers. It is the wide disparity between the number of people who are passionate in their dislike of Bush vs. those who support him with equal fervor.

Lately, there have been a lot more of the former — and even Republicans acknowledge that could spell trouble in closely contested congressional races.


The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll showed 47 percent of voters “strongly” disapprove of Bush’s job performance, vs. 20 percent who said they “strongly approve.”

Whether anti-Bush sentiments portend a political tidal wave in November is much debated, but Democrats hope they are hearing early echoes of 1974 and 1994. There was massive turnover of congressional seats in those midterm elections, as fired-up voters first punished Republicans for Watergate, and later turned on Democrats because of President Bill Clinton’s failed health-care initiative and because of anger over House ethics abuses.

The intense opposition to Bush is larger than any faced by Clinton. For all the polarization the 42nd president inspired, Clinton’s strong disapproval never got above 37 percent in Post-ABC polls during his presidency.

It’s interesting to note that for all the rabid hatred the right wing was able to generate among themselves for Clinton, it never translated into voter revulsion against him personally — had he been able to run for a third term he would have beaten the crap out of Bush in 2000 — and the election in 1994 was more about throwing out the House than it was about Clinton himself; remember the Contract with America? That was Republicans saying, “Hey, over the last forty years the Democrats have become corrupt and arrogant. Give us a chance; we’ll do it in ten.”

The advantage to the Democrats is that the Republicans will dismiss the anger the electorate feels as just Bush-hating by the liberal media and left-wing-looney bloggers. More fool they. Once again they are confusing anger with hatred and blinding themselves to the simple fact that the current administration has demonstrated with breathtaking efficiency how easy it is to destroy trust and goodwill among not just the party faithful but among those voters who could have easily been brought into their majority but got frightened off by the extremists and the incompetents. If Terri Schiavo didn’t give them pause, then the response to Katrina did. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the disillusionment over the war in Iraq, something that recalls all too eerily the lessons taught in 1968.

That doesn’t mean it’s going to be a rout for the Democrats; they still have to come up with messages that will sell in their districts. But it may be that all they’ll need to do, as Newt Gingrich recently said (and repeating a 1948 Republican campaign slogan), is to just ask the voters: “Had Enough?”