It Won’t Work
Not to pick on Kathleen Parker, but the "narrative" she suggested the Democrats take from midterm elections — "You can’t sell people what they don’t want" — is more likely to end up being the narrative the Republicans take from 2012 — if the president and the Democrats do what they need to do. Karl Rove was half-right when he said voters didn’t toss out the Democrats because are "enraptured with the GOP." People are angry sure, but the numbers tell a different story.
People are angry not at what the Democrats did after 2008, but what they didn’t do. They didn’t "buy" what the GOP was selling. Like a shopper who ordered one thing and got another, American voters ordered transformative change in 2008 but got the same old transactional politics instead. The midterms of 2010 is their letter or complaint.
Here at Campaign for America’s Future, we just released a voter survey that shows voter fears about the economy and anger at government failure to help middle- working-class families even as Wall Street got bailed out.
- Compared to a candidate who attacked Democrats for the economic stimulus and health care reform, 57 percent of voters said they were much or somewhat more likely to support a candidate with a "made-in-America" campaign message that points out that Republicans have "pledged to support free trade deals and protect tax breaks for companies that send American jobs to India and China."
- Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that "America is falling behind" in the global economy and that "we need a clear strategy to make things in America, make our economy competitive, and revive America’s middle class."
- Sixty-nine percent said that "politicians should keep their hands off Social Security and Medicare" as they attempt to address the national deficit.
- A majority opposed the Republican plan to cut $100 billion from domestic spending programs while extending the Bush tax cuts to those earning more than $250,000, while 51 percent said they agreed that those top-end tax cuts should expire and with proposals offered by Democrats to reduce the deficit over time.
- Significant majorities in the poll supported new investments in infrastructure through a national infrastructure bank, a five-year strategy for reviving manufacturing in America
Why stop at one poll?
The GOP is not popular with Americans, nor is its agenda. Poll after poll leading up to the election bear this out. Their approval/favorability ratings were low going into the election, lower than the Democrats in many cases.
This is in the context of low approval ratings for Congress overall. But, as I said in the previous post, The Democrats’ problem is failing to deliver on the agenda Americans voted for in 2008. The Republicans problem is an agenda that remains toxic to most Americans.
Americans offer tepid support for much of the Republican Party’s domestic agenda, including repealing the new healthcare law and extending tax cuts for the wealthy, according to the latest Society for Human Resource Management/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, conducted with the Pew Research Center.
The results suggest Republicans could struggle to pass legislation advancing many of the smaller-government themes that have dominated their campaigns in the midterm elections, even if the party wins control of one or both houses of Congress in November.
In particular, the party appears to risk a backlash from senior citizens, a critical voting bloc that harbors deep skepticism about tinkering with entitlement programs.
The survey is the most comprehensive polling look so far at the major elements of the agenda that key Republicans have been discussing in the weeks leading up to the election.
Not all the news was good for Democrats…
…Still, the poll offered little to suggest that the surge in voter support for Republican candidates, whom analysts project to win major gains this fall, carries over to support for policies championed this fall by Republican leaders in Washington and on the campaign trail.
Kos posted a handy breakdown when the poll came out.
- 29% of Americans support extending all of the Bush tax cuts.
- 32% support repealing the newly passed health care law.
- 33% support replacing Medicare with vouchers.
- 58% support creating Social Security private accounts.
- 46% support amending the Constitution to deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants (49 are opposed).
- Fewer than half of Republican respondents favored extending all the Bush tax cuts or replacing Medicare benefits with vouchers.
- Poll respondents continue to disapprove of President Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, 45% to 38%.
- Three-quarters said they could not name the leader of the Republican Party, or that the party does not have a leader.
What do Americans want? Here’s a hint, it’s not what the Republicans campaigned on.
- A September AP poll said that Americans who wish health care reform went further outnumber opponents of health care reform by 2-to-1.
- An October poll by the Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard university found that six in ten Americans say they want their representatives to fight for more government spending in their districts, to spur job growth. That’s compared to 39% who said they want cuts even if it means fewer local jobs. (That’s a flip from 1994, by the way, when 53% wanted their Reps. to fight for cuts, while 42% were on the other side.)
- In the same poll, 50% supported more government spending to boost the economy, while 46% prioritized deficit reduction.
- Not only did voters defeat major anti-tax measures in several states, but an AP poll less than 50 days before the election showed that 54% of Americans favored raising taxes on the highest earners, compare to 44% opposed.
- A Stanford University poll showed that 86% of Americans want government to limit the amount of air pollution that businesses emit.
- And 76% favored government regulating greenhouse gasses in particular.
- Another poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks and designed by Yale researches showed that 77% believe that global warming should be a priority for the president and Congress.
- And 94% believe that developing sources of clean energy should be a priority for the president and Congress.
- Meanwhile, 77% support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.
And that’s an overview, because a detailed analysis is more than I have space to do here.
Not of the above adds up to what the GOP was "selling" in this election. But it’s what more Americans "bought" in 2008 than voted in the midterm elections and any number of special elections since.
Parker follows the example of other conservatives who, after every election election since November 2008 have rushed to declare that "the people have spoken." When voters in Massachusetts, Virginia, and New Jersey elected Republicans, they somehow "spoke" louder than those Americans who spoke in 2008. When 45 million fewer vote in 2010 than voted in 2008, "the people have spoken."
The people spoke in 2008, and have been speaking since then. It’s just that neither party has listened.
The people spoke in 2008, upwards of 130 million of them, compared to 82.5 million in 2010. The numbers above, all from polls taken in the last half of this year, reflect what they voted for then and have wanted since.
From Democrats they got health care reform with no public option; and no fight to defend it; financial reform that left "Too Big To Fail" standing; a stimulus that was too small for the jobs crisis the country faces; a foreclosure prevention program that, in order to avoid helping the "wrong people," helped almost no one; and no climate/energy legislation, given up without much of a fight.
From the GOP they got an agenda written by and for corporate interests.
The GOP is in an unenviable position. It is constitutionally incapable of delivering what Americans truly want. Meanwhile, the party must content with an extreme right that wants what Republicans cannot deliver without angering a great many Americans.
It won’t work.
The Democrats have a chance to come back if they want it. But they need a plan to finish what the started, and deliver what Americans said they wanted in 2008 and are still waiting for.
Then they have to convince us that they mean it.