Friday, July 27, 2007

Dems See the Sword in the Stone

The American public appears to have thrown themselves at the feet of the Democrats. At the same time, the Dems are acting like daft adolescents unaware of their opportunities.

There's been a lot of proof of such trends. A major document in the area was the March 22nd Pew Research Center Report Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007, subtitled Political Landscape More Favorable to Democrats.

My pinko pessimistic self fears that there are so many DINOs in Congress that they cannot convert this into progressive change. On the other hand, just by standing still, they have come out on the good side of public opinion.

Disclaimer: I don't put a whole lot of credence in most studies and surveys. Certainly those in medical journals and by political or other interest groups contradict each other and often phrase questions to get particular results. In contrast, the Pew Research Center has a very different reputation. For example, they have good sample sizes of representative groups, they repeat many of these studies for decades for comparisons, and they make all their questions and findings part of their reports.

Pew has gone to the public on core political questions for over 20 years. The trends seem to speak to the Dems' inertia and lack of vision as much as to the GOP's immorality, greed and shameless pandering to moneyed interests. Those are my conclusions. Pew is much more circumspect.

I advise reading the report. The summary is here. The whole report with questions and results is here.

Key Trends

The summary lays out the gist, including:
Increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies have improved the political landscape for the Democrats as the 2008 presidential campaign gets underway.

At the same time, many of the key trends that nurtured the Republican resurgence in the mid-1990s have moderated, according to Pew's longitudinal measures of the public's basic political, social and economic values. The proportion of Americans who support traditional social values has edged downward since 1994, while the proportion of Americans expressing strong personal religious commitment also has declined modestly.
If you have noticed and been puzzled by other recent polls showing a low approval for Congress, including Dems, you can see what's happening with this. More and more American voters, particularly self-identified independents are leaning toward Democratic positions and identifying with the party. Yet, this is not the result of Dems' brains, vision or guts.

Instead, by my interpretation of the data, the GOP has fallen below the Democrats, who are standing still. The Republicans in both Executive and Legislative branches have acted so immorally, lied so often, been so corrupt that they have simply passed the stupefied Dems on the way down. Embarrassingly enough, voter approval of Dems has hardly wavered, hovering at 50% or a little above for the past decade and one half. Meanwhile, the GOP has seen its ratings go from 67% in in 1994 to 41% this year. See ya!

GOP Going Down

It's no surprise that the arrogance and incompetence of the Republican government has produced:
  • Only one in three voters "satisfied with the way things are going in the country, a 25-point decrease in the past seven years."
  • "Nearly three-quarters (73%) agree with this statement: 'Today it’s really true that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.' The percentage concurring with this statement has risen eight points since 2002 and represents the highest number in agreement since the early 1990s (80% in 1991)."
  • 69% of Americans, including 58% of Republicans agree that "it is the government's responsibility 'to take care of people who can't take care of themselves" — a steadily rising percentage.
  • Even with the unceasing drumbeat of terrorism, the percentage of Americans who believe that "The best way to ensure peace is through military strength" has fallen steadily to under half.
  • Similarly after the thousands of dead U.S. soldiers, the percentage who agree that "We should get even with any country that tried to take advantage of the U.S." has fallen from a high of 61% to 40% with 54% disagreeing.
  • Americans don't want us to torture anyone.
  • The younger voters are the less problem they have or even think about homosexuality or same-sex marriage.
  • A huge percentage (83%) of Americans are cool with interracial dating, even pre-Boomers (65%).
There are many other supporting trends. In short, this is a Democratic nation, ripe for real Democrats to step up and step in. The key questions is whether the nominal Dems in Congress really Democrats, much less progressives? Can they provide plans and programs to address the public's dissatisfaction and be, well, Democrats?

It's too easy to goof on the Republican voters. It's almost as though party affiliation is an intelligence test, one Republicans repeatedly fail. For one example, "Three-quarters of Republicans with household incomes of $50,000 or less say they are pretty well satisfied with the way things are going for them financially, compared with just 40% of Democrats and a similar share of independents (39%). Even among Republicans who say they often do not have enough money to make ends meet, nearly six-in-ten (58%) express
satisfaction in the way things are going for them financially. By contrast, just 30% of Democrats and 32% of independents who have trouble making ends meet say they are satisfied with their personal financial situation."

There are numerous other such findings in this study. I would like to think that the GOP doesn't necessarily attract most of the simple-minded Americans. There are Republican economists and others who do not appear to be dumb or delusional. Yet in numerous domestic and international issues, personal and broad, Republican respondents tow their President's like (like only 40% are concerned about government collecting their personal information).

Resilient American Dream

Amusingly enough, there seems to be one emotional blind spot widely shared. Remember that American dream — work hard and you have as good a chance as the well-born and well-connected to succeed? Well, all of us seem to hold that. The very rare come-from-nowhere winner is all that seems required here. Those who would agree that "Success in life is pretty much determined by forced outside of our control" are below half — 39% of independents, 35% of Democrats and 22% Republicans.

History and economics largely gainsay that view. As Leonard Cohen wrote:
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed

Everybody knows that the war is over

Everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows the fight was fixed

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
T
hat's how it goes

Everybody knows
No one can really explain how we believe that the rich are taking from the poor and simultaneously that we all have equal shots.

There is a cluster of other ironies thrown into the mix. For example, 45% overall want smaller government, including 68% of Republicans. Meanwhile, when we have GOP Executives and Legislative branches, we get much bigger government and much higher resulting deficits. Oops.

The picture overall from this report covering trends for two decades is intense. Any Dem politician who considers this at all accurate should be eager to act on its findings.

However, given the Bill-Clinton-style moderate-to-conservative Democrats we have been sending to Washington, and listening to the mush coming from nearly all their current Presidential aspirants, I have to wonder whether they can do it.

Can the Democrats articulate a vision to match the needs and desires of Americans, needs and desires that are largely progressive and egalitarian? It has been a long, long time, perhaps since post-WWI that this big a chance has presented itself.

If we had a Congress full of progressive leftists, this would not be an issue at all. With the current crop though, I am not sure 1) that they have the courage and vision to advance the necessary ends, and 2) whether American voters will or should believe DINOs trying to differentiate themselves from the failed Republicans.

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