George Bush is in a serious poll funk and hurricane Katrina is not likely to be a benefit to his popularity with the American people. A poll taken today shows only 12% of people giving the federal response an excellent rating and 16% label it as good, while 25% call it fair and 45% call it poor. Even among Republicans, there are significant doubts about the federal response to Katrina. Just 47% of those in President Bush’s party say the federal response has been good or excellent. Fifty-one percent say fair or poor.
Furthermore Rasmussen reports that only forty-five percent (45%) of American adults now approve of the way George W. Bush is performing his role as President. Fifty-three percent (53%) disapprove. Another recent survey by the Gallup polling organization had Mr. Bush’s approval at 40 percent, also a new low for the president. American Research Group has his approval as low as 36%
The polls suggest that the violence in Iraq and rising fuel prices at home are taking a toll on the President’s popularity. The fuel situation could worsen, given the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina along Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore, in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, 57 percent of those surveyed disapproved of the president’s handling of Iraq, while 53 percent said the war was not worth it.
It is clear in nearly every poll that a shrinking minority of Americans support President Bush, his plan for Iraq, and the what the Republican-led Congress is doing. But does that mean Democrats will sweep into power next year?
Other polls show Democrats having nearly an identical approval rating in Congress as the Republicans. While in nearly every poll, most Americans say they would vote for a generic Democrat over a generic Republican in the elections next year, Democrats have a ways to go before Bush’s unpopularity results directly in their gain and/or drags down the popularity of other Republicans.
Democrats need to make their stands more clear to the voters. Everyone paying close attention knows the Democrats have detailed plans and ideas for every aspect of society, but most people are not paying close attention. Much of the Republican agenda in the last few years, in fact, has been rolling back the “New Deal” ideas created by Democrats inclucing: social security, health care, public education, public broadcasting, corporate responsibility, protection of the environment, fair and equitable taxation, and fiscal responsibility. But a reflexive criticism of Republican ideas first and foremost, followed by Democratic alternatives leaves the public feeling the Democrats are against Republicans first and leaves little time to hammer home their ideas.
Moreover, Democrats need to stop tempering their stands in fear of Republican responses. They need to understand that no matter what a Democrat says, James Dobson and Pat Robertson are going to be outraged.
What are Democrats they afraid of?
Is Orrin Hatch going to “water-board” Senator Kerry, if the Senator stands up for the right to choose? When Republicans retook control it was through brash opposition along with a plan (contract with America). They fought against everything Democrats did, including impeaching their President for lying about sex (clearly not a “high crime”). They took stands on issues that were clear, even if not the most popular. Whoever sent the message to Democrats that mimicking the positions of Karl Rove and Tom Delay was their path back to power was severely mistaken. Just look at the results Republicans obtained. Stiff opposition, even going beyond what is decent and proper (i.e., the Clinton impeachment), along with a well-reasoned plan is a good strategy.
The contract with America is dead. There are probably 100 million Americans waiting for the Democrats to start fighting for the things they believe in again before they start pulling the lever. Why are these democrats back-slapping Tom Delay and the religious right? If you are against torture in America’s name stand up and say it and don’t back down. If you want to balance the budget by re-prioritizing Government spending, say it and strop backing down. If you are going to fillibuster a Supreme Court nominee who will overturn Roe v. Wade, follow through, explain why you are doing what you are doing, and stop backing down. Until Democrats define the issues they won’t back down on, it will be hard for them to make the case to the voter that they stand for something substantial.
Bush is a lame duck and an unpopular one at that. The Democrats don’t need to work overtime anymore to make him less popular by reflexive criticism and political flame-throwing. More detailed explanations of what they would do different, before criticizing what Republicans have done, might reverse the trend and raise their numbers higher than Republicans. When Democrats mimic Republicans they end up just as unpopular as Republicans. That won’t result in a wholesale shifting of the political landscape.