Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tuesday in November

The Flight from the Democratic Party

Two different stories — one reporting on last week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll and the other from yesterday’s New York Times — include quotes from voters that underscore just how bad the political environment is for Democrats these days.

From the Journal story — which reports on how Republicans have reassembled their coalition by reconnecting with independents, seniors, blue-collar voters, suburban women, and small-town and rural voters — we read this:

Of those who want to see Republicans control the House, less than one-third said that was because they support the GOP and its candidates.

Rather, nearly two-thirds said they were motivated by opposition to Mr. Obama and Democratic policies.

“Republicans ran us under financially, and the Democrats are worse,” said poll respondent William Lina, 80, of Alden, N.Y., who is a registered Democrat but plans to vote a straight Republican ticket in November.

He cited frustration with the Democrats’ health-care overhaul and the economic stimulus program.

Joe Carter, a 53-year-old Republican from Kingsport, Tenn., who has voted for Democrats in the past, said he, too, would likely vote a straight Republican ticket.

“Both parties do things I disagree with,” Mr. Carter said. “But just to stop what’s going on now, I will vote Republican.”

And from the New York Times, we read this:

Sam Boyd has been a Democrat his entire adult life, just like many here in this mostly rural, economically impoverished southwestern corner of the state, where the party’s roots run as deep as the coal underfoot.

But in Tuesday’s closely watched special election to succeed the late Representative John P. Murtha in the state’s 12th Congressional District, Mr. Boyd, 65, is leaning toward casting his vote for the Republican candidate, Tim Burns, a millionaire former software entrepreneur who got involved in politics through the Tea Party movement.

“I’m for Burns for the reason I was for Obama,” said Mr. Boyd, a retired general contractor who served as an unpaid campaign liaison for Mr. Murtha in his county. “I want change.”

Whether or not Mr. Burns pulls off a victory over his Democratic opponent, Mark Critz, in what polls suggest is a competitive race, voters like Mr. Boyd embody the nightmare scenario for Democrats nationally: that even committed Democrats will turn on their part. …

Mr. Boyd, who first joined his local Young Democrats club as a 14-year-old, says he now regrets voting for Mr. Obama, even though he hastened to add that he still found the president personally appealing.

“I just think I bought the sizzle, not the steak,” he said.

These anecdotes, which must be sending shivers up and down the spine of Democrats, reflect what the data overwhelmingly shows the country, including traditional Democrats, are moving away from the Democratic Party at an alarming rate. There are multiple causes for this, but prima inter pares is Barack Obama, liberalism’s “sort of God,” America’s “Black Jesus,” the man who would (by his own account) heal the planet and reverse the ocean tides.

It is an extraordinary political exodus that Mr. Obama is engineering — but, for Democrats, it’s going in all the wrong ways.

With every passing week, Obama’s wings of wax continue to melt. Soon enough — say, round around the first Tuesday in November — a terrible crash will follow. At that point, Democrats will begin to rethink just what Mr. Obama has wrought for his party and for the cause of contemporary liberalism.

Two different stories — one reporting on last week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll and the other from yesterday’s New York Times — include quotes from voters that underscore just how bad the political environment is for Democrats these days.

From the Journal story — which reports on how Republicans have reassembled their coalition by reconnecting with independents, seniors, blue-collar voters, suburban women, and small-town and rural voters — we read this:

Of those who want to see Republicans control the House, less than one-third said that was because they support the GOP and its candidates.

Rather, nearly two-thirds said they were motivated by opposition to Mr. Obama and Democratic policies.

“Republicans ran us under financially, and the Democrats are worse,” said poll respondent William Lina, 80, of Alden, N.Y., who is a registered Democrat but plans to vote a straight Republican ticket in November.

He cited frustration with the Democrats’ health-care overhaul and the economic stimulus program.

Joe Carter, a 53-year-old Republican from Kingsport, Tenn., who has voted for Democrats in the past, said he, too, would likely vote a straight Republican ticket.

“Both parties do things I disagree with,” Mr. Carter said. “But just to stop what’s going on now, I will vote Republican.”

And from the New York Times, we read this:

Sam Boyd has been a Democrat his entire adult life, just like many here in this mostly rural, economically impoverished southwestern corner of the state, where the party’s roots run as deep as the coal underfoot.

But in Tuesday’s closely watched special election to succeed the late Representative John P. Murtha in the state’s 12th Congressional District, Mr. Boyd, 65, is leaning toward casting his vote for the Republican candidate, Tim Burns, a millionaire former software entrepreneur who got involved in politics through the Tea Party movement.

“I’m for Burns for the reason I was for Obama,” said Mr. Boyd, a retired general contractor who served as an unpaid campaign liaison for Mr. Murtha in his county. “I want change.”

Whether or not Mr. Burns pulls off a victory over his Democratic opponent, Mark Critz, in what polls suggest is a competitive race, voters like Mr. Boyd embody the nightmare scenario for Democrats nationally: that even committed Democrats will turn on their part. …

Mr. Boyd, who first joined his local Young Democrats club as a 14-year-old, says he now regrets voting for Mr. Obama, even though he hastened to add that he still found the president personally appealing.

“I just think I bought the sizzle, not the steak,” he said.

These anecdotes, which must be sending shivers up and down the spine of Democrats, reflect what the data overwhelmingly shows the country, including traditional Democrats, are moving away from the Democratic Party at an alarming rate. There are multiple causes for this, but prima inter pares is Barack Obama, liberalism’s “sort of God,” America’s “Black Jesus,” the man who would (by his own account) heal the planet and reverse the ocean tides.

It is an extraordinary political exodus that Mr. Obama is engineering — but, for Democrats, it’s going in all the wrong ways.

With every passing week, Obama’s wings of wax continue to melt. Soon enough — say, round around the first Tuesday in November — a terrible crash will follow. At that point, Democrats will begin to rethink just what Mr. Obama has wrought for his party and for the cause of contemporary liberalism.

Read Less

Polls: Bad Times Ahead for Democrats

The latest Gallup Poll shows that the party affiliation gap is at the narrowest it has been since 2005, when the GOP was at its high-water mark in terms of political power (holding the presidency, the House, and the Senate). According to Gallup:

The advantage in public support the Democratic Party built up during the latter part of the Bush administration and the early part of the Obama administration has all but disappeared. During the first quarter of 2010, 46% of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, while 45% identified as or leaned Republican. The latest results, based on aggregated data from Gallup polls conducted from January to March of this year, show the closest party division since the first quarter of 2005, when the parties were tied at 46%. Democrats enjoyed double-digit advantages in party support in 11 of 12 quarters from the second quarter of 2006 to the first quarter of 2009.

By the end of last year, the Democratic advantage had shrunk to five points (47% to 42%), and it narrowed further in the most recent quarter.

The six-point rise in Republican support since the first quarter of 2009 is due entirely to a growing proportion of independents who lean to the Republican Party, rather than an increase in the percentage of Americans who identify as Republicans outright…  Those who are independent or express no party preference are then asked whether they lean more toward the Democratic or the Republican Party.)

In fact, the 28% of Americans who initially identify as Republicans today is identical to the figure Gallup measured in early 2009, when the Democrats still had a double-digit advantage in support. Since then, there has been a three-point reduction in the proportion of Democratic identifiers, and a three-point decline in the percentage of Democratic-leaning independents.

Democrats maintain an edge in initial party identification over Republicans, 32% to 28%. That advantage has also shrunk over the last year, from a 35% to 28% Democratic edge in the first quarter of 2009.

What this shows is that the Democratic Party is in the process of a meltdown (the 13 point gap Democrats enjoyed at the beginning of last years has virtually vanished), and the GOP, while slowly making progress, still has work to do. The GOP’s “brand” still hasn’t fully recovered. But the loss of confidence in the Democratic Party is clearly the key development of the last 15 months. And in terms of practical outcomes, meaning election results, things could hardly be looking better for the Republican Party. Although many people may not identify themselves as Republicans outright, they certainly appear to be voting that way. It isn’t simply that all the intensity is with voters who call themselves Republican; it is that independents who are highly dissatisfied with government overwhelmingly favor Republican candidates and are much more likely to vote.

According to the most recent Pew poll:

Perhaps more troubling for Democrats, the link between dissatisfaction with government and voting intentions is at least as strong among independent voters. Independents who are highly dissatisfied with government are far more committed to voting this year than are independents who are less frustrated (78% vs. 58%). Overall, independents voters slightly favor the GOP candidate in their district by a 41% to 34% margin, but those who are highly dissatisfied with government favor the Republican candidate by an overwhelming 66% to 13% margin. Independents who are less dissatisfied with government favor the Democratic candidate in their district (by 49% to 24%), but are much less likely to say they are certain to vote.

It appears as if the more people are exposed to Obama and Obamaism, the further and faster the Democratic Party falls. But they ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The first Tuesday in November is when Democrats stop falling and really begin absorbing the damage from the fall. It will be, for them, an immensely painful experience. Comeuppances often are.

The latest Gallup Poll shows that the party affiliation gap is at the narrowest it has been since 2005, when the GOP was at its high-water mark in terms of political power (holding the presidency, the House, and the Senate). According to Gallup:

The advantage in public support the Democratic Party built up during the latter part of the Bush administration and the early part of the Obama administration has all but disappeared. During the first quarter of 2010, 46% of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, while 45% identified as or leaned Republican. The latest results, based on aggregated data from Gallup polls conducted from January to March of this year, show the closest party division since the first quarter of 2005, when the parties were tied at 46%. Democrats enjoyed double-digit advantages in party support in 11 of 12 quarters from the second quarter of 2006 to the first quarter of 2009.

By the end of last year, the Democratic advantage had shrunk to five points (47% to 42%), and it narrowed further in the most recent quarter.

The six-point rise in Republican support since the first quarter of 2009 is due entirely to a growing proportion of independents who lean to the Republican Party, rather than an increase in the percentage of Americans who identify as Republicans outright…  Those who are independent or express no party preference are then asked whether they lean more toward the Democratic or the Republican Party.)

In fact, the 28% of Americans who initially identify as Republicans today is identical to the figure Gallup measured in early 2009, when the Democrats still had a double-digit advantage in support. Since then, there has been a three-point reduction in the proportion of Democratic identifiers, and a three-point decline in the percentage of Democratic-leaning independents.

Democrats maintain an edge in initial party identification over Republicans, 32% to 28%. That advantage has also shrunk over the last year, from a 35% to 28% Democratic edge in the first quarter of 2009.

What this shows is that the Democratic Party is in the process of a meltdown (the 13 point gap Democrats enjoyed at the beginning of last years has virtually vanished), and the GOP, while slowly making progress, still has work to do. The GOP’s “brand” still hasn’t fully recovered. But the loss of confidence in the Democratic Party is clearly the key development of the last 15 months. And in terms of practical outcomes, meaning election results, things could hardly be looking better for the Republican Party. Although many people may not identify themselves as Republicans outright, they certainly appear to be voting that way. It isn’t simply that all the intensity is with voters who call themselves Republican; it is that independents who are highly dissatisfied with government overwhelmingly favor Republican candidates and are much more likely to vote.

According to the most recent Pew poll:

Perhaps more troubling for Democrats, the link between dissatisfaction with government and voting intentions is at least as strong among independent voters. Independents who are highly dissatisfied with government are far more committed to voting this year than are independents who are less frustrated (78% vs. 58%). Overall, independents voters slightly favor the GOP candidate in their district by a 41% to 34% margin, but those who are highly dissatisfied with government favor the Republican candidate by an overwhelming 66% to 13% margin. Independents who are less dissatisfied with government favor the Democratic candidate in their district (by 49% to 24%), but are much less likely to say they are certain to vote.

It appears as if the more people are exposed to Obama and Obamaism, the further and faster the Democratic Party falls. But they ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The first Tuesday in November is when Democrats stop falling and really begin absorbing the damage from the fall. It will be, for them, an immensely painful experience. Comeuppances often are.

Read Less

Bill Clinton’s Double Standard on Rhetoric

The Big Dog has slipped his leash again.

Bill Clinton began a concerted attack on the Tea Party movement in the New York Times late last week:

With the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing approaching, former President Bill Clinton… drew parallels between the antigovernment tone that preceded that devastating attack and the political tumult of today, saying government critics must be mindful that angry words can stir violent actions…  “There can be real consequences when what you say animates people who do things you would never do,” Mr. Clinton said in an interview, saying that Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, and those who assisted him, “were profoundly alienated, disconnected people who bought into this militant antigovernment line.”

“Because of the Internet, there is this vast echo chamber and our advocacy reaches into corners that never would have been possible before,” said Mr. Clinton, who said political messages are now able to reach those who are both “serious and seriously disturbed.”… Mr. Clinton said his intent was not to stifle debate or muzzle critics of the government but to encourage them to consider what repercussions could follow. He acknowledged that drawing the line between acceptable discourse and that which goes too far is difficult but that lawmakers and other officials should try.

“Have at it,” he said. “You can attack the politics. Criticize their policies. Don’t demonize them, and don’t say things that will encourage violent opposition.”

Then, at an event for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, he said this:

What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or that we should reduce our passion for the positions we hold — but that the words we use really do matter, because there’s this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike.

As you would expect from Mr. Clinton, his words are both sophisticated and slick. There is even some truth to them. Words have meaning, and context matters. Public officials in particular should be careful not to exploit passions that can become harmful. There’s no rulebook that tells us which slang phrases and locutions are clever and which are inflammatory. Things that may be fine in one context might not be so in another. We have to rely on common sense and good judgment.

The problem for Mr. Clinton is that his concern about the dangers of incendiary rhetoric seems to have taken flight during the two terms of the Bush presidency, as well as during his own. Regarding the former, there was, for starters, the 2006 film, The Death of a President, on the assassination of President Bush. Mr. Clinton did not, to my knowledge, condemn the movie in a front-page story in the New York Times or in a major speech.

Moreover, George W. Bush was, during his two terms in office, routinely called a war criminal, an international terrorist, and compared to Hitler [see a photo gallery here and here]. Signs with bullet holes in Bush’s forehead, with blood running down his face, were all part of the fun and games. The president was accused of moral cowardice by Al Gore, of being a liar and the anti-Christ, and of being a totalitarian and dictatorial leader. Members of Congress such as Keith Ellison compared the attacks on September 11 to the Reichstag fire.

This was all pretty common fare during the Bush presidency. Yet Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, remained silent, apparently unconcerned that such words would fall on the serious and the delirious, the connected and the unhinged, at the same time. And many of Mr. Clinton’s fellow Democrats, including his vice president, said words that encouraged the worst elements and instincts of the haters and the loons.

The Tea Party protests, in terms of the level of hate speech and the placards and signs used, don’t hold a candle to the anti-war protests we witnessed during the Bush years. Yet for some inexplicable reason — inexplicable because we all know the press and the political class are fantastically free of bias — the hate directed against Bush didn’t receive anything like the scrutiny the Tea Party is receiving.

It’s also worth recalling that the Clinton administration organized, coordinated, and participated in some of the ugliest rhetoric we have seen in recent American politics. I have in mind, for example, the campaign against Judge Ken Starr, who was the independent counsel during the Clinton-Lewinsky investigation. The Clinton team said Starr was a “spineless, gutless weasel” and “engaged in anti-constitutional destructiveness.” He was a “thug” and a “Grand Inquisitor for life.” His tactics were “frightening,” “vicious,” and “lawless.” His investigation was an “inquisition,” “smacks of Gestapo,” and “outstrips McCarthyism.” He was acting “irresponsibility, illegally.” Starr was “undermining the very integrity of the criminal-justice system.” The office of independent counsel was filled with “a crew of prosecutorial pirates” and Starr was using “instruments of intimidation and smear without restraint.”

And now Mr. Clinton is preaching to us about not demonizing our opponents and about the importance of not crossing rhetorical lines. Can a Clinton sermon on the importance of fidelity and the gift of celibacy be far behind?

The level of concern and consternation that is being directed at the Tea Party movement is hard to take seriously given the blinding double standard at play. When Bush was president and greater hate was directed at him than is today directed at Obama, the narrative was that this was a sign of Bush’s divisiveness. In those days dissent was the highest form of patriotism. Today, with Obama as president, everything is reversed. Obama is the victim, not the divider; dissent is viewed as sedition.

I have no problem at all condemning the Tea Party movement if it crosses lines of civility and reason. But the hypocrisy at play here is discrediting.

In a deeper sense, the impulse on display here is, despite what Clinton says, illiberal. The end game for many Tea Party critics isn’t to silence a few nuts in a movement comprising millions of people; it is to discredit the movement itself. It is to silence the overwhelming number of decent people who comprise the Tea Party movement by attaching them to the hip with haters and kooks.

This tactic will, I think, backfire. We are seeing a huge, lawful, civic uprising against the Obama agenda — and to slander people as clones of Timothy McVeigh will only add kindling wood and kerosene to this bonfire.

Liberals and the Democratic Party are losing virtually every substantive debate on the issues. It is blowing their circuits. And so they are left to resort to libel, to portray Tea Party participants as Timothy McVeighs in waiting. There will be a high price to pay for this ugly and petty tactic, beginning with the first Tuesday in November.

The Big Dog has slipped his leash again.

Bill Clinton began a concerted attack on the Tea Party movement in the New York Times late last week:

With the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing approaching, former President Bill Clinton… drew parallels between the antigovernment tone that preceded that devastating attack and the political tumult of today, saying government critics must be mindful that angry words can stir violent actions…  “There can be real consequences when what you say animates people who do things you would never do,” Mr. Clinton said in an interview, saying that Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, and those who assisted him, “were profoundly alienated, disconnected people who bought into this militant antigovernment line.”

“Because of the Internet, there is this vast echo chamber and our advocacy reaches into corners that never would have been possible before,” said Mr. Clinton, who said political messages are now able to reach those who are both “serious and seriously disturbed.”… Mr. Clinton said his intent was not to stifle debate or muzzle critics of the government but to encourage them to consider what repercussions could follow. He acknowledged that drawing the line between acceptable discourse and that which goes too far is difficult but that lawmakers and other officials should try.

“Have at it,” he said. “You can attack the politics. Criticize their policies. Don’t demonize them, and don’t say things that will encourage violent opposition.”

Then, at an event for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, he said this:

What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or that we should reduce our passion for the positions we hold — but that the words we use really do matter, because there’s this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike.

As you would expect from Mr. Clinton, his words are both sophisticated and slick. There is even some truth to them. Words have meaning, and context matters. Public officials in particular should be careful not to exploit passions that can become harmful. There’s no rulebook that tells us which slang phrases and locutions are clever and which are inflammatory. Things that may be fine in one context might not be so in another. We have to rely on common sense and good judgment.

The problem for Mr. Clinton is that his concern about the dangers of incendiary rhetoric seems to have taken flight during the two terms of the Bush presidency, as well as during his own. Regarding the former, there was, for starters, the 2006 film, The Death of a President, on the assassination of President Bush. Mr. Clinton did not, to my knowledge, condemn the movie in a front-page story in the New York Times or in a major speech.

Moreover, George W. Bush was, during his two terms in office, routinely called a war criminal, an international terrorist, and compared to Hitler [see a photo gallery here and here]. Signs with bullet holes in Bush’s forehead, with blood running down his face, were all part of the fun and games. The president was accused of moral cowardice by Al Gore, of being a liar and the anti-Christ, and of being a totalitarian and dictatorial leader. Members of Congress such as Keith Ellison compared the attacks on September 11 to the Reichstag fire.

This was all pretty common fare during the Bush presidency. Yet Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, remained silent, apparently unconcerned that such words would fall on the serious and the delirious, the connected and the unhinged, at the same time. And many of Mr. Clinton’s fellow Democrats, including his vice president, said words that encouraged the worst elements and instincts of the haters and the loons.

The Tea Party protests, in terms of the level of hate speech and the placards and signs used, don’t hold a candle to the anti-war protests we witnessed during the Bush years. Yet for some inexplicable reason — inexplicable because we all know the press and the political class are fantastically free of bias — the hate directed against Bush didn’t receive anything like the scrutiny the Tea Party is receiving.

It’s also worth recalling that the Clinton administration organized, coordinated, and participated in some of the ugliest rhetoric we have seen in recent American politics. I have in mind, for example, the campaign against Judge Ken Starr, who was the independent counsel during the Clinton-Lewinsky investigation. The Clinton team said Starr was a “spineless, gutless weasel” and “engaged in anti-constitutional destructiveness.” He was a “thug” and a “Grand Inquisitor for life.” His tactics were “frightening,” “vicious,” and “lawless.” His investigation was an “inquisition,” “smacks of Gestapo,” and “outstrips McCarthyism.” He was acting “irresponsibility, illegally.” Starr was “undermining the very integrity of the criminal-justice system.” The office of independent counsel was filled with “a crew of prosecutorial pirates” and Starr was using “instruments of intimidation and smear without restraint.”

And now Mr. Clinton is preaching to us about not demonizing our opponents and about the importance of not crossing rhetorical lines. Can a Clinton sermon on the importance of fidelity and the gift of celibacy be far behind?

The level of concern and consternation that is being directed at the Tea Party movement is hard to take seriously given the blinding double standard at play. When Bush was president and greater hate was directed at him than is today directed at Obama, the narrative was that this was a sign of Bush’s divisiveness. In those days dissent was the highest form of patriotism. Today, with Obama as president, everything is reversed. Obama is the victim, not the divider; dissent is viewed as sedition.

I have no problem at all condemning the Tea Party movement if it crosses lines of civility and reason. But the hypocrisy at play here is discrediting.

In a deeper sense, the impulse on display here is, despite what Clinton says, illiberal. The end game for many Tea Party critics isn’t to silence a few nuts in a movement comprising millions of people; it is to discredit the movement itself. It is to silence the overwhelming number of decent people who comprise the Tea Party movement by attaching them to the hip with haters and kooks.

This tactic will, I think, backfire. We are seeing a huge, lawful, civic uprising against the Obama agenda — and to slander people as clones of Timothy McVeigh will only add kindling wood and kerosene to this bonfire.

Liberals and the Democratic Party are losing virtually every substantive debate on the issues. It is blowing their circuits. And so they are left to resort to libel, to portray Tea Party participants as Timothy McVeighs in waiting. There will be a high price to pay for this ugly and petty tactic, beginning with the first Tuesday in November.

Read Less




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