Saturday, November 28, 2009


A lot of people right now are talking about the new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll that shows much greater voter motivation among independents and (especially) Republicans than among Democrats, an obvious warning sign for 2010:

...But a bigger indicator of peril comes from a new survey question added the DK tracking poll for the first time this week. The poll now includes a rather simple indicator of baseline voter enthusiasm for the year 2010. The question offered to respondents is a simple question about their intentions for 2010:

QUESTION: In the 2010 Congressional elections will you definitely vote, probably vote, not likely vote, or definitely will not vote?

The results were, to put it mildly, shocking:

Voter Intensity: Definitely + Probably Voting/Not Likely + Not Voting

Republican Voters: 81/14
Independent Voters: 65/23

Two in five Democratic voters either consider themselves unlikely to vote at this point in time, or have already made the firm decision to remove themselves from the 2010 electorate pool. Indeed, Democrats were three times more likely to say that they will "definitely not vote" in 2010 than are Republicans.

I'm thinking back to last spring, when I would read lefty blogs and watch Rachel Maddow and a common question was "Why are these silly tea parties even taking place? What exactly do these absurd people want?" Teabaggers' taxes weren't going up, yet they were foolishly complaining about being "taxed enough already." The intervention in the auto industry was obviously temporary, and Wall Street was obviously being treated with kid gloves, but they were absurdly warning of the death of capitalism. Gun laws and broadcasting regulations that no one in the administration was proposing were being hysterically denounced. And on and on.

What was the point? I realize I'm stating the obvious, but this was the point -- this moment of intense GOP voter motivation. It was essentially the only point. It was what Rupert Murdoch had in mind when he hired Glenn Beck just before Inauguration Day; it was what Dick Armey had in mind when copies of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals began circulating around his organization FreedomWorks. The point was to get as many people as possible angry about anything whatsoever in order to throw sand in the gears of Obamaism, and then ride that anger to big electoral victories as quickly as possible, using now-motivated anti-Obama voters and counting on the disappointment of the '08 Obama electorate. Those guys got it right: there was no point in even waiting for Obama and the congressional Democrats to actually do anything that threatened the status quo; just describe everything and anything as an outrage, whether real, exaggerated, or utterly fake (Obama's birth certificate! death panels!) and create an insurgency out of the anger, one that, even if it can't seize the reins of power, can make the nation ungovernable for those who hold those reins, until the reins can finally be seized.

This wasn't supposed to work -- the people doing it couldn't get anything to work in 2008. But you actually need a majority in an election; in an insurgency, you don't. (You don't need a majority in the Senate, either, obviously.)

By the way, this poll is yet another nail in the coffin of the ridiculous theory that Beck/Palin/teabaggism is "post-partisan," i.e., just as opposed to the GOP as to the Democratic Party. If that were the message the rubes were taking away from Beck/Palin/teabag rhetoric, Republican voters in this poll would be just as demoralized as Democrats; they'd be saying, "Oh, what's the use of voting? There's no viable third-party movement, and both major parties suck." But that's just the opposite of what this poll shows. And of course that's the case. Beck and Palin and the leaders of the 'baggers whisper their contempt for the GOP and shout their anti-Democrat anger at the top of their lungs. And their contempt for the GOP is couple with praise for what they say the GOP should be.

As you know if you're a regular reader, I don't buy the notion that the way to turn this around is to pass health-care reform, because I don't think it's what voters really want first. I think the answer would be a real focus on the economy as it's experienced by ordinary Americans, along with an effort to give Wall Street the caning it deserves. I find myself thinking that the financial meltdown was Obama's 9/11, and health care was the Iraq he decided to focus on while all the Osama bin Fat Cats were still at large. Unfortunately, I don't think he's going to reverse course any more than Bush did.

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