Greg Sargent argued yesterday that the American public is not, in fact, politically polarized -- there's actually a broad consensus on a fairly liberal agenda:
... E.J. Dionne's latest column notes there is majority consensus behind ideas about "economic justice" and the safety net, but that it's obscured by the degree to which one party remains captive to a conservative minority that wants to unravel that consensus:And yet -- as Larry Sabato notes today, confirming the general consensus -- Republicans are likely to do extremely well in this year's midterms:
... A survey released at the end of December by Hart Research, a Democratic polling firm, found that Americans supported extending unemployment insurance by a margin of 55 percent to 34 percent. Several recent surveys, including a Fox News poll, found that about two-thirds of Americans support an increase in the minimum wage. [...]... Majorities support immigration reform with a path to citizenship. While people tell pollsters they don't like Big Government, they support getting our fiscal house in order through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes, as Democrats want, and majorities oppose cuts to Social Security or Medicare. Large majorities support federal spending on infrastructure to create jobs. Majorities backed the core ideas in the American Jobs Act, which included spending on road repair and tax credits for job training, paid for by taxes on the rich....
...most Americans broadly accept the New Deal consensus.... there is far more agreement among the American people than there is among Washington lobbies, members of Congress or political commentators on the core proposition that government should help us through rough patches and guarantee a certain level of economic fairness....
Republicans Really Could Win It All This YearWell, what else do we expect? Democrats motivate their voters in presidential election years; Republicans motivate their voters -- and pique the interest of a certain percentage of swing voters -- every day of every year, because they've constructed a highly efficient noise machine that turns politics into drama, with outsize heroes and villains, and clear notions of good and evil.
... At this early stage, the combination of ... factors suggests a good election year for the GOP. The president is a Democrat and his approval is weak. The economy may be improving, based on GDP growth (4.1 percent in the third quarter), but voters still don't believe their personal economy, at least, has picked up much. Instead, the major national issue of the moment is Obamacare, which at this point is a loser for Democrats. The structure of the election in the House and Senate also bends in the GOP direction.
And even when Democrats get their act together and start making efforts to motivate voters by talking about some of the issues mentioned by Sargent and Dionne, it doesn't matter, because Republicans make it their business to block any Democratic effort to enact this agenda. Big Business offers a huge assist to the GOP, by lobbying against a New Deal-style agenda, and by reminding Democrats that campaign cash depends on not rocking the boat in a way the plutocracy dislikes.
The GOP can't always enact its agenda, of course. It can't repeal Obamacare (so far), and (so far) it can't quite get government small enough to drown in the bathtub. But the right's noise machine is excellent at creating liberal villains, both in D.C. government and out, from Nancy Pelosi to Melissa Harris-Perry. The GOP is much better at this than the Democrats -- hell, the right has worked harder to demonize Bill de Blasio, who's been in office a week, that the Democrats have to demonize Mitch McConnell, who's been in the Senate for nineteen years.
Voters are angry because Republicans are blocking what they want, but the only party successfully channeling voter anger is the Republican Party. So, alas, the GOP will probably do well this year.