Thursday, February 27, 2014


In The Washington Monthly a few days ago, Curtis Gans -- who's been analyzing voting patterns since the 1960s -- argued that there could actually be a Democratic wave in the 2014 elections. If this is going to happen, Gans says, we'll see it coming based on three signs:
Despite current conventional wisdom, such an election is not only possible but probable, but only if three signals occur - if September polls, the polls taken when people are paying attention to the upcoming election, show a substantial improvement in Obama's approval rating and an equally substantial increase in public support of the Affordable Care Act, and if the economy does not relapse into recession.
Well, I know it's a long way from September, but unfortunately, those numbers right now are headed in the wrong direction:
Republicans are in a stronger position than Democrats for this year's midterm elections, benefiting from the support of self-described independents, even though the party itself is deeply divided and most Americans agree more with Democratic policy positions, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows.

... 42 percent say they will back Republicans in November, and 39 percent indicate that they will back Democrats....

There is a sense of foreboding in the public as well, with ... 57 percent indicating that they disapprove of Mr. Obama's handling of the economy....

One issue, though -- the Affordable Care Act -- seems to have solidified some opposition to Democrats....

Mr. Obama's approval rating is now at 41 percent, with 51 percent of Americans saying they disapprove of his performance, his worst standing in the past two years, with the exception of a CBS News survey last November in the midst of the troubled rollout of the new health care law. Such ratings amount to an early political alarm for Democrats on the ballot this year....
To be specific, Obama's approval/disapproval numbers are at 41%/51%, down from 46%/47% in the same poll in January. The numbers on his handling of the economy are at 38%/57%, down from 41%/53% in January. The percentage of respondents who think the health care law "needs to be repealed entirely" is at 42%, up from 34% in January.

Oh, and here's the frightening thing, not just for 2014, but for the future:
The independents in the poll -- a majority of whom were white or male or under age 45 -- continued to sour on President Obama's job performance.
Oh, great. We've all been thinking, "Yeah, there's a huge gender gap, especially when it comes to white men, but that's going to disappear when all those racist, homophobic old Fox viewers die off." Um, maybe not. The young are a lot less racist and homophobic, but independent in this poll disapprove of Obama by a 54%/36% margin, and disapprove of his handling of the economy 62%/31% (maybe because the under-45s are unemployed, broke, and indebted); 45% of them think the health care law should be repealed (though 49% think it should be improved).


What could turn this around for the Democrats? They could be pushing an increase in the minimum wage -- me, I'd like to see as many votes or a minimum wage increase in the Senate as there have been Obamacare repeal votes in the House -- but Harry Reid is holding back, because some Senate Democrats are idiots:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday delayed action on legislation raising the minimum wage, the centerpiece of the Democrats' 2014 agenda.

The Nevada Democrat made the surprising move amid escalating Democratic resistance in the wake of a Congressional Budget Office report released last week estimating that hiking the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour could cost the equivalent of 500,000 jobs by late 2016.

... Of the 55 senators who caucus with the Democrats, only 32 have signed on as official co-sponsors of Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-Iowa) bill....

Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.), the chamber's most vulnerable incumbent, has said he does not support the legislation....

Other Democrats up for reelection who have not co-sponsored the Harkin measure include Sens. Mark Warner (Va.), Kay Hagan (N.C.) and Mary Landrieu (La.)....
Dear Democratic idiots: In the Times/CBS poll, a minimum wage increase to $10.10 is favored 65%/33%; it's favored by 62% of independents and even 42% of Republicans.

I also fault Democrats for not doing a better job of explaining why Washington is so dysfunctional. I know that Beltway insiders reach for the smelling salts every time a Democrat actually blames Republicans, but polls show that the public blames Republicans, so just say it, Democrats. Don't give mushy, rhetorically empty answers like this one, from Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes:
The Washington Post: You talked a lot about the partisan gridlock and dysfunction that you see in Washington. I know you were talking about Sen. McConnell and the congressional Republicans, but I'm wondering if you think President Obama shares any of that blame – if the environment in Washington is at all because of him or his approach or his policies, too.
Alison Lundergan Grimes: As we saw, especially with the filibuster reform, there is enough finger-pointing to go around for a lifetime with what has occurred in Washington, D.C. But Kentuckians are tired of the finger-pointing. They want somebody that actually comes up with a pathway forward as to how they're going to have faith again in the future of Kentucky and the promises of being an American and being able to grow the middle class. That's what our campaign is about. It's not the blame game and the finger-pointing that Mitch McConnell has become a master at. It's actually making sure that we're tackling the problems of the people of the state.
Are there any cliches she skipped? Why not point fingers at Republicans, Alison? You're running against a guy who said his top priority was making Obama a one-term president. And he's now regarded as a moderate Republican! Why are Democrats terrified of partisanship when there's no downside for Republican partisanship?


Yeah, I know. I'm supposed to be happy this morning. I'm supposed to be doing the Snoopy dance of joy because Jan Brewer vetoed that anti-gay bill. It's good news. But here's what I'm thinking:

The one thing I don't want to hear is that "Republicans really shot themselves in the foot again." No, they didn't. America will forget all about this by November -- hell, America will probably forget all about this by next week. Remember when last fall's government shutdown was going to doom Republicans in 2014? It's four months later and most of America forgot all about the shutdown three months ago. Or four.

Why? Because Republicans are better at sustaining anger than Democrats are; also, because Republicans generate and promulgate a hundred stories damaging to Democrats for every one Democrats generate. We had a few days of zone-flooding with this story, but Republicans keep the zone flooded much more of the time. When that changes, I'll stop being so gloomy about the prospects of Democrats.

And finally, we have to look at what Republicans have done in the Obama years as an embargo. The U.S. government places an embargo on Cuba or Iran in the hope that the economic hardship will put pressure on the government -- and that's precisely what Republicans have done in America, by blocking anything that will improve our economy. They want the public to turn against the president and his party. And it's working.


Victor said...

A different take on Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller's classic:

First, they would not let me discriminate against women. That made me mad, because I wasn't a woman.

Then, they would not let me discriminate against Jews. That made me mad, because I wasn't a Jew.

Then, they would not let me discriminate against blacks. That made me mad, because I wasn't a black.

Now, they won't let me discrimate against gays. And that makes me mad, because I am not gay.

But today, I realize that that means that there is no one who can discriminate against me, either!

And that makes me happy!!!

Victor said...

Yes the Democrats need to "message" better!

But that's been the case for decades.

And our Reich-Wingers have succeeded - they saw what a solid middle class can do:
The CRA's, which.
The ERA - which almost passed.

That middle class saw injustices, and tried to right them.

And so, well over 40 years ago, the wealthy and powerful in this country decided to do whatever they could to make that middle class poor, so that it would be too poor to look around, and instead just worry about making it through that day, intact.

They have succeeded.

People are too stressed-out to look around much, let alone pay attention to the f*cking they're getting, to take any action.

When you have to fight to keep either one job with endless hours, or two or three jobs, you don't have too much time to get involved politically.

Grung_e_Gene said...

The belief amongst many Liberals that there is a long-term demographic death for the Republican Party and conservatives is false.

The Right knows that Short-Term is all that matters.

By, the time the "current" is generations shuffles off a new generation of right-wing drones replaces them. But, it's not just that conservatives are duped, sure some of them stupid, but some are insanely skilled grifters, some are true believers, some are bigots and so forth.

So, the Republicans focus on winning now and then after winning (or even losing) they enact their policies, i.e. Intolerance, Oppression and Transfer of Wealth to the Rich.

ladyblug said...

I agree with everything you said, but we also need to rally democrats, progressives, liberals and environmentalists to not let the American Taliban take over this country!

Chris Andersen said...

I think you are being overly pessimistic about voter attitudes. Yes, voters, unlike activists, tend to suffer short-term memory loss when it comes to individual events. But voters are, IMO, subconsciously aware of patterns of behavior. And that awareness impacts their thinking months and years later.

So, while they may not remember the specifics of individual examples of Republican douchebaggery, that does not mean they won't go into the voting booth with a sense that Republicans are douchebags.

SMignon said...

Long time reader, de-lurking for the first time. The topic of approval ratings and public opinion is dear to me, because of the part-time work I do with a private polling company. I want to assure you all that I understand your time is limited, that you have many other claims upon your energy and resources, and that you, Mr./Mrs./Miss John or Jane Public, would rather do anything else but answer survey questions. And you've let me know this, in many, many ways. Whether the callee is nasty or nice, whether you pick up then hang up or pick up but don't speak, whether you curse me out or politely decline, the result is still the same: your opinions are not tallied or tabulated, and therefore THEY DONT 'COUNT.' Sure, you approve of the president - you voted for him twice, right? But because you opted not to give that opinion in the question you did not answer, (Do you approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as president?), your opinion here is as silent as you are. Do you know who I find DOES have the time to sit through a survey? People who SURELY watch Fox News on a regular basis, people who believe the Kenyan Socialist in the White House is actively plotting to destroy America, who believe the IRS and Benghazi 'scandals' are evidence of this imperial presidency's evil designs. But because they take the time to answer questions, their opinions DO count. Of course the President has low approval ratings - his supporters are sitting on the sidelines, smiling with grim satisfaction at having gotten rid of that 'pesky caller.' And listen, I will be fine. I'm paid to make the calls, I can get a fair amount of people to talk to me, and I fake smile my way through some odious answers to questions I consider loaded. But it breaks my heart for the President and for the country. The people who do answer are setting the tone and expressing the attitudes upon which policy and public opinion are based; you can, too! We'll have a nice conversation - I mean, how often is it that someone is genuinely seeking your opinion about issues that really matter, and in a format that can have an impact? To have the president's back, and stand strong for the progressive community, please - just say 'yes'

fester said...

My question on the polling is independent vs. moderate --- those two things are not the same population. For example, Romney won independents and got crushed by moderates.

Right now independents include a significant chunk of the Teabaggers who think the GOP is too liberal but they'll never vote for a Democrat in their life.