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« Home-Town Hatefest | Main | Changed Tone at Space Access »

None Of The Above

I've made this point before, but it seems I have to point it out almost continually. Glenn discusses Bush's current (relatively) low approval rating. This number is, to me, almost always politically meaningless, though the pundits always want to freight it with inappropriately great import. The underlying thesis, of course, is that since the president's approval ratings are low, this somehow represents a great opportunity for the Democrats, and that if only the numbers had been like this back in the fall, John Kerry would have been swept into office.


It may be an opportunity for some theoretical Democrat party--one to which I might even in that bizarro universe belong, and for whose candidates I'd vote. But not in this universe, not with, and Howard Dean, and Ted Kennedy continuing to call the shots. The mindless assumption that unhappiness with one major party translates into happiness with the other continues to pervade the conventional wisdom, but consider:

I was very happy that Al Gore was not elected president in 2000. Ecstatically, almost deliriously happy. And this was even before September 11--that event just made me all the more relieved. But on any day of the Bush presidency since he took the oath of office, if you'd asked me if I approve his performance, I'd say no. On free trade, on government spending, on education, on his faux support for the "assault-weapons" ban, on any number of things, I strongly disagree with his stances and disapprove of his presidency. But since I'm not offered anything better from the other party, this is meaningless in terms of his theoretical electoral prospects, or even in terms of his getting my support on initiatives with which I agree.

Since the conventional wisdom is that Bush is a "conservative" and a "right winger" (though if a Donkey president had pushed through many of the things that this president has, e.g., the education bill co-developed with Ted Kennedy, or the huge Medicare enlargement via the prescription drug benefit, the press and the Democrats would be praising him and them to the skies), then the assumption is that unhappiness with him is unhappiness with the "conservativeness" and "right-winginess" of his proposals, and that the solution to improving his "approval" rating is to "move to the center." The explanation rarely seems to take into account that the unhappiness may be due to lack of diligence in executing his "right-wing" proposals, or that in fact (as was the case with, for example, the education bill, or steel tariffs), they aren't "right-wing" at all. The fact that many libertarians' and self-identifying conservatives' unhappiness might be dragging down his numbers never seems to occur to these people.

Of course, that might be one of the reasons that their electoral prognostications often turn out to be so wrong...

Posted by Rand Simberg at April 27, 2005 06:22 AM
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President Bush's Approval Ratings.
Excerpt: President Bush's approval ratings: they have taken a meaningful hit over the past few months. Well, sort of. Looking at the Gallup Poll, the slump is really not all that spectacular: Similarly, take a look at the ABC NEWS/WASHINGTON POST...
Tracked: April 27, 2005 01:43 PM

The only impact of these polls on a second-term President is his perceived ability to boost other candidates and to push his legislative agenda. The weaker a President appears, the less likely members of his party will be to call him in to support their own reelection efforts. Ditto for pushing his agenda in Congress: he's a lame duck out of the gate, and weak numbers make it that much easier to go your own way.

Posted by billg at April 27, 2005 07:35 AM

BillG makes a valid point, reflected by history: midterm elections in a president's second term have tended to be even worse for the president's party than in his first term. And I think the reasons tend to be what BillG says.

Then again, Bush has rewritten the rules twice already, his party having expanded its margins in both houses of Congress in 2002 and 2004 -- the latter not having happened since FDR's day.

There has clearly been a confluence of circumstances leading to these results -- GWOT, Bush's political skills, the lack of a Democrat "bench" once Clinton retireed, even the fast-setting star of the lamestream media's influence over the electorate -- and I don't really foresee any of these factors suddenly going away in 2006.

On the other other hand, sudden changes rarely are foreseen. We'll find out when we find out.

Posted by McGehee at April 27, 2005 09:21 AM

Absent some extraordinary concern, like 9/11, voters will typically blame the party in power if they're unhappy andgo with the flow if they're happy. Not much lately bodes well for a lot of happy voters in '06.

While I tend to agree more with the Dems on domestic issues (Bush's Republicans seem to want to live in a different country than me), they lack the discipline and organization needed to take advantage of that scenario.

Posted by billg at April 27, 2005 10:32 AM

The Texas Privatization Plan
In his Social Security roundtable yesterday, President Bush stated, “If you’ve got a good idea, bring it forward. I don’t care if it’s a Republican idea, or a Democrat idea, independent idea, Texas idea, any kind of idea, bring it forward.” Well, it seems that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) took the president up on the “Texas idea” suggestion. The senator’s office has released a report looking at the 1981 Texas plan. In 1981, three Texas counties “decided to opt out of Social Security and instead to provide their public employees with a system of privatized accounts.” The analysis done by Boxer’s office and the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service “compares two sets of families in three different income brackets [and] shows what happens to their retirement in 2005 under Social Security and under the Texas plan.” The conclusion:
By examining the actual system in place in Texas, this study shows that Americans are worse off with privatized accounts - not in theory, but in reality.

Posted by Michael D'Amico at April 27, 2005 12:58 PM

Ummmmm, Michael--you take Boxer's "analysis" at face value??? She spun those numbers!!! geeze, back to the reality based community for you!!!

Posted by at April 27, 2005 01:03 PM

Nice thoughts. I particularly agree that a little bit of disgruntlement at one party does not equal a move to another, even more objectionable party.

The "theocon" thesis is the flavor of the month, nothing more, nothing less:

As stupid as it sounds, "high" gas prices are the reason for slumping poll numbers. They are killing the Consumer Sentiment Index, which is the single-most important correlative factor in Presidential approval ratings.

More here.

Posted by Will Franklin at April 27, 2005 01:40 PM

I live in Galveston County. A neighbor works for the county. Trust me -- he will be getting more from the county than I will from Social Security -- and I earn more than he does. (But not enough to max out SS taxes.) He will not be getting just more -- he will be getting a LOT more.

Drink the Kool-aid Barbara Boxer. I don't have to be a weatherman to know that you are a liar when you pee on my boots and try to tell me it's raining.

Posted by Mark L at April 27, 2005 02:36 PM

Rand, I agree with you and sent an email to Glenn to that effect (no, of course I never hear back). Just from perusing comments on righty blogs, I know that the conservative base is restive (to use a euphemism) or outright irate (that would be me). It is a MSM wish that run-of-the-mill conservatives are upset about the religiously rightwing tilt of the agenda; we are fried over the utter ineffectiveness and cravenness of our so-called elected senators. We weren't offended by the religious right over Schiavo; we were offended by the Cult of Death on the left. We want Bolton confirmed and we want Bush's agenda pushed through. To the extent that this doesn't happen, "unhappy" doesn't begin to describe us. I'm no religious righty but I am deeply, deeply offended by the patently anti-religious, anti-military and pro-EU/U.N. caterwalling in the MSM/DNC.

We also want a good candidate in '08 and we want Hillary! maimed and trampled. The Republican heads popping up to present themselves as hopefuls leave me cold, so far. Could anyone be more off-putting than Frist? If the choice comes down to Hillary! or McCain, my head will explode.

BTW, to Will, I'm curious about this gas prices thing. If I'm not mistaken, when inflation is taken into account, gas prices are not as high as they were 25 years ago. I just don't buy that one.

Posted by Peg C. at April 27, 2005 02:44 PM

Bushco is on the top of the heap only because the fcc did nothing about the muliple fraudulent claims made by the gop. the majority of the oeple who votwd for awol were of the belief that sadam was involved with 911. They knew it was all lies then and should have been called on it.

Posted by at April 27, 2005 02:48 PM

You hit that nail, Rand. It's just more spin.

Michael... How stupid is it for Boxer to evaluate a plan implemented in 2005 when decades are the appropriate timeframe for the evaluation of this type of thing?

Posted by Ken Anthony at April 27, 2005 03:21 PM has some really great graphs on the G.W.Bush Popularity polls! I personally think G.W.B is doing a great job! Especially considering the fact that the Libs, such as Hillary and the rest of the gang plan to attack and oppose any and everything possible that he would like to get done! Spin, spin, spin and more spin from all our leftists!...

Posted by Zsa Zsa at April 27, 2005 04:07 PM

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