Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 7, 2010

ENTERING THE FINAL STRETCH, AN UGLY FINISH LINE AWAITS.... Traditionally, Labor Day marks the unofficial kickoff the election season. Summer vacations end, kids head back to school, and candidates focus their efforts on connecting with voters, buckling down for the two-month stretch that leads to Election Day.

And with this calendar in mind, three national polls have been released over the last 24 hours. To say that they all offer bleak news for Democrats would be a dramatic understatement.

Last week, I was dismissive of Gallup's erratic generic-ballot poll showing the GOP with a 10-point edge. It's impossible, however, to dismiss the obvious trend evident in the latest data.

CNN/Opinion Research

It's the kind of data that has to drive Democrats batty -- the CNN poll shows an unpopular Republican Party, which voters blame for the nation's economic problems. The same poll shows Republicans leading on the generic ballot by seven, 52% to 45%, up from a three-point edge a month ago.

Washington Post/ABC News

Respondents in this poll prefer Democrats to Republicans to handle the nation's problems, believe Democrats are more in line with their personal values, and consider Democrats more interested in the concerns of people like them. Like the CNN poll, this survey also shows the public blaming Republicans more than Democrats for the state of the economy.

And yet, on the generic ballot, among likely voters, Republicans have an enormous 53% to 40% lead.

NBC News/Wall Street Journal

As with the other results, this poll shows an unpopular Republican Party pushing unpopular ideas. And yet, on the generic ballot, among likely voters, the GOP edge is now up to nine points, 49% to 40%.

I realize that results like these don't make a lot of sense. Given a choice between the party that created the mess and the party cleaning it up, voters are prepared to side with the former in large numbers. It's irrational and counter-productive, but it's happening anyway -- voters are angry and frustrated, so they intend to punish the majority, even if it works against their interests; even though it's not the majority's fault; even if makes things worse.

Democrats have eight weeks to make a strong closing argument, and figure out a way to get Democratic voters to show up and prevent a disaster.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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Well, if the American people are THIS f**king stupid, we definitely deserve the s**tstorm that going to come raining down around our ears.
In November, coming to a theatre near you: "America, the Stuped, Commits Suicide!"

Posted by: c u n d gulag on September 7, 2010 at 8:04 AM | PERMALINK

Somehow, I doubt that "if the American people are THIS fucking stupid..." is the most persuasive theme available.

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 7, 2010 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

In 2006 and 2008, the voters gave Dems big majorities. Things have gotten worse. The Dems refused to stand up to the Rs, the Dems adopted the Rs talking points, the Dems are more concerned with being "right," being "polite," being "liked," etc. So what should the voters think, realistically?

Posted by: Not surprised on September 7, 2010 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

I realize that results like these don't make a lot of sense.

Apparently, to voters the difference between the two parties is, umm . . . black and white.

But as I've said before, back in 2004 exit polls found that voters wanted a candidates with "values" -- not Republican values, but any values. Most modern Democrats act as if they're ashamed of their party's progressive roots and try to pretend that they aren't voting with a progressive (or at least anti-conservative) governing philosophy.

Over the weekend someone on the Sunday shows said that, unlike Reagan, Obama has never articulated a "vision" for where he wants to take the country. All he's offered is bills that tinker around the edges of problems, but which deliberately don't connect to each other.

If the Democrats aren't willing to stand up and defend what they stand for, or at least what their party is supposed to stand for, then they're no better than Rand Paul and Sharon Angle -- hiding the truth and just saying whatever it takes to get elected.

Posted by: SteveT on September 7, 2010 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

SteveT really gets it. Democrats are afraid of showing conviction since it might mean hurting David Broder's feelings. The result is that the Crazy Asshole Party - the same people who want to gut SS, unemployment insurance, and health care cost containment - will win. Conviction will beat high-mindedness every time. And as the GOP shows, that conviction can be bad to the point of evil.

Posted by: walt on September 7, 2010 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

If your life isn't going to get any better, at least you can punch the guy who let that happen.
"The guy" being the Democratic congressional contingent who'd rather pretend that it's just a friendly softball game instead of life and death.

There's no disputing that a Republican Senate with a 59 vote majority would roll through town like a West Virginia coal express. Harry Reid and his leadership seem to be afraid to play that game, lest Dean Broder look at them with shelter dog eyes.

The pity is that Reid will probably get his seat back.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on September 7, 2010 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, SteveT gets it.

Perhaps if, you know, the Democrats would fight for truly progressive values, things would be different. People like inspiring leadership, not leaders who preemptively capitulate by starting negotiations with an already-compromised position, instead of fighting from a strong position and then compromising to something that is truly middle ground (cough single-payer leading to public option cough as an example).

Why they're not fighting and are punching hippies instead suggests that they're either a) so bought by the corporations and plutocrats that they cannot and will not fight, or b) they're afraid of their own shadows. Either is bad, but at least 'b' gives we common folk some hope.

$50B is great for infrastructure. But remember how many $50B 'emergency supplementals' that were supported almost unanimously were passed, yet this comparatively meager sum that benefits those other than the military/industrial complex will probably fail. Again, from lack of leadership and lack of fight. (And the sum should be 20X bigger.)

Posted by: terraformer on September 7, 2010 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

Something Dems ignore at their peril - all our peril, really - is that that the Legend of the Independent Voter swings both ways. There are "independent minded" Dems and left-leaners who are disillusioned with Obama. Doesn't mean they're voting GOP. They just might not vote at all, or vote third party. but those who lean right, and always vote Republican but consider themselves independents - what we now call the Tea Party - they're disillusioned by the GOP. For not being SUFFICIENTLY RIGHT WING ENOUGH. They're just as unlikely to vote Dem as a Dem smarting from the health care battle is unlikely to swing right. But those right leaning "independents" always vote. This is why the Republicans in general poll worse than Dems hut can expect some big wins come November.

Posted by: slappy magoo on September 7, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

"I realize that results like these don't make a lot of sense."

Of course they make sense. It's an adage, for goodness's sake -- given the choice between a Republican and a Republican, people will vote for the Republican.

Posted by: Forrest on September 7, 2010 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Al Giordano's take is of interest.

Posted by: Jess on September 7, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Forrest said:
It's an adage, for goodness's sake -- given the choice between a Republican and a Republican, people will vote for the Republican.

That's not quite right.

Given the choice between a Republican and a pseudo-Republican, voters usually will vote for the Republican.

Posted by: SteveT on September 7, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats have eight weeks to make a strong closing argument, and figure out a way to get Democratic voters to show up and prevent a disaster.-Benen

Prevent a disaster? Not the way I'm looking at the data. I'm relieved. A disaster would have been Republicans making major gains in both houses but coming up just short of majorities, giving them twice the obstructing power with the same "Democrats in power theme". Hell it's what Republican insiders conceded they wanted, because the GOP wasn't ready for a leadership role.

Thank god the public at large will begin to see what we here have seen all along - Republicans are obstructionist mega-assholes more interested in cheap theater than fixing problems. And while 2011 will suck it was going to suck anyway with an inept Dem party essentially shutting their agenda down. At least now the heat can be turned back on Republicans and a crumby next two years may just fire up the Democratic base again.

Posted by: Oh my on September 7, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Remember when McCain and Palin looked like they could do no wrong and they had the bump in the polls the pundits had an orgasm over? Remember how we couldn't believe people were falling for the charade and lies? Well, the good news is that the more people found out about them and their policies, the more they woke up and voted for Obama and Biden.

In the vacuum of information that's occurred over the last month, the Republicans surged. So how do you fight that? Information, knowledge and facts. The more people learn about the GOP, the quicker they'll realize just how bad they really are. Someone says they support the GOP, immediately ask them what their platform is so that they realize there isn't one. And if there is, so much the better to defeat them.

Don't give in to the stupid and ignorant, extend a hand and teach.

Posted by: Kiweagle on September 7, 2010 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

SteveT doesn't get it but Kiweagle does. Most of you want to punish Americans...let them vote for Rs and suffer the consequences. Let them cut off their noses to spite their faces. Screw that crap. I'm with Kiweagle. With two months to go to the midterms, Americans are listening now. Give them the info they need. Counteract every ridiculous GOP talking point with facts. Show Americans that Rs are empty suits; that you don't want to give them back the keys to the car because they don't know how to drive.

Show the country you are proud to be a Dem. Don't wait for Pelosi to do it. You do it!

Posted by: ted on September 7, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Once again, the divine Atrios nails it. Writing yesterday under the heading Monfday Night, he says: "It probably doesn't matter much, but I do wish I could spend the next couple months worrying about electing Democrats instead of worrying that Democrats are planning to cut Social Security."
THAT is why Regressives are ahead in the polls. If the Dems won't fight for seniors, the jobless, the Elizabeth Warrens of the world, why bother? It's time to shove compromise aside and Push the Program.

Posted by: Tomm on September 7, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

We are not faced with "a choice between the party that created the mess and the party cleaning it up," but rather with a choice between the party that created the mess and the party refusing to clean it up because it's just too hard. Reasonable people will respond to that choice by looking for practical ways to live in the mess that isn't going to be cleaned up whether they bother to vote or not.

Posted by: j h woodyatt on September 7, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

In an essentially binary political system such as ours voters have limited choices to express their disapproval when there really aren't any good alternatives to the incumbents. Staying home does nothing since someone will still win the winner-take-all event, voting for a marginal candidate who won't win isn't ineffective. So voting for the major party out of power is a way to express anger and frustration. Does that make sense when that party is as odious as the Rethugs have become? No. Does it help make anything better? Certainly not. Does it feel good? Probably.

The underlying principle remains, however, that fear and anger motivates the Rethugs. It paralyzes the Dimocrats.

While there may be too many low information and low intelligence voters who are particularly susceptible to the endless propaganda trumpeted by the right-wing lie machine, who may also deserve the train wreck that will be the next Congress, the rest of us don't deserve a train wreck Congress with a large crazy caucus. We especially should be angry and frustrated with the spineless Dimocrats who were given such a mandate for change two years ago, and who have blown it so totally.

Our national elections have become useless. Regardless of which party controls Congress the next two years are going to be unbearable. The presidential election circus machine is going to be lubricated with unlimited corporate money. That and the likes of the Koch brothers, Scaife, and their ilk working the levers behind the scenes through their numerous front organizations will take us one more big step down the slippery slope to some combination of anarchy and fascism.

And Obama still thinks he's playing a polite game of ping-pong with the Rethugs, while the Rethugs are engaging in a no-holds-barred fight to the death. Who would have thought he would be so clueless.

Anyone with even less than half a functioning brain knows we cannot continue down this road for very much longer.

Posted by: rrk1 on September 7, 2010 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

The ReTHUGlicans are organized in lock-step (and wearing brown shirts, too).

The Democrats are disorganized, freethinkers across the spectrum, and philosophically eclectic.

Which one is better sticking to a script?

It's not a leadership problem. God knows there are few leaders other than Pelosi who could have held the House together through Health Care Reform. And with 40 Senators being able to stop ANY legislation, Harry Read has done a darned good job, too.

Sure wish George Soros had a TV network.

Posted by: Cal Gal on September 7, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Bull Hockey. The corporate owned press is promoting the idea that (as they know we all know and they can't lie about it) even though the republican party is deeply unpopular and polls as considerably more unpopular than the democrats, that we are supposed to believe that people are going to vote for republicans instead of the party they prefer. When the MSM Coporate owned hacks known as our media are promoting this blatant idiocy what they are instead doing is paving the way to hide a stolen election.

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