We are like astronomers watching a black hole collapsing inward. But it’s the conservative movement we’re viewing. Lacking a Republican president to hold it in place, the powerful gravity of extremist ideology is crushing its adherents. At least, that’s how it looks through the lens of recent public opinion polls.
Americans are very happy with President Barack Obama. The President is wildly popular among both Democrats and Independents. Republicans don’t like him but that is neither unexpected nor particularly important.
On the other hand, no one on the Republican side is well-liked. Mitch McConnell (21 percent favorable, 62 percent unfavorable), John Boehner (14 percent favorable, 64 percent unfavorable), the Republican Party (20 percent favorable, 72 percent unfavorable), and congressional Republicans (11 percent favorable, 73 percent unfavorable) are dramatically unpopular . Only 42 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Republicans in Congress.
Rush Limbaugh—13 percent
Dick Cheney—10 percent
John McCain—6 percent
Newt Gingrich—6 percent
George W. Bush—3 percent
Michael Steele—1 percent
John Boehner—1 percent
Mitt Romney—1 percent
Could not name any main person—52 percent
There is a reason for this leaderless unpopularity. The Bush Administration was an enormous failure. And Americans understand that this was not just a matter of incompetence—Bush failed because conservatism failed to live up to its promise.
The only sensible thing for Republicans to do at this time is to reject at least some of the right wing ideology. If they don’t become at least somewhat more moderate, they can’t deliver a credible message to Independent voters.
But they’re doing the opposite!
Yesterday it was disclosed that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will launch a $100 million campaign to defend their extreme right wing agenda. Chamber President Tom Donohue calls this effort the “Campaign for Free Enterprise.” He declared :
We have got to go out in a big-time way and remind all Americans that it was a free enterprise system based on the values of individual initiative, hard work, risk innovation and profit which built our great country.
According to the newspaper Politico :
Donohue will begin raising money for the project this summer and roll it out in stages. As envisioned, the campaign will include a grass-roots lobbying component that will tap the strength of the Chamber’s network of small businesses and business and trade associations. A public education ad buy defending the free enterprise system is in the works, as well as an issue advocacy program tied to the 2010 midterm elections.
In the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, that plan is downright crazy. And what about Republicans in Congress? According to the New York Times , they’re launching a new energy proposal:
[The plan] leans heavily on nuclear power, setting a goal of building 100 reactors over the next 20 years. No new nuclear plants have been ordered in the United States since 1978 because of the high cost of construction and uncertainty about regulatory approval.
Nuclear power is the least popular of all proposals to deal with America’s dependence on foreign oil. That’s consistent with congressional Republican plans on health care (force everyone to buy insurance from the unpopular private health insurance companies) and taxes (make the unpopular Bush tax cuts permanent and implement a range of new tax breaks for the rich).
While President Obama has Democrats fairly well-organized and energized—pushing for health care reform, energy independence, and greater support for education—the conservatives are totally disorganized, demoralized and unpopular. At least they are right now.
We progressives have to make the most of this rare opportunity. Because we’re not really looking through a telescope at a black hole in space. We’re gazing out of the deep, dark hole that George W. Bush and his conservative cronies dug for our country. It will take all of our strength to lift our fellow Americans into the light.