Gallup has a not-so-encouraging chart:
To be sure, there’s much time left to go till the election, and I would expect Obama’s re-election campaign to remind people of the stakes next year. But it’s pretty stunning nonetheless, and speaks for itself.
One could immediately pivot from this to bemoaning Democrats destroying themselves at any opportunity. But thinking about it, I have to wonder: considering the past eight months, what exactly should Democrats be enthusiastic about? The past year has been a deliberate case of giving Democrats what they don’t want in order to win over “independents”, and getting neither in the process. Obviously, Obama was going to have to make compromises that liberals don’t like to deal with Republicans in Congress, everyone knew that. But he forgot himself and his base for much of the year, and what does your typical Democrat really have to look forward to from Obama II? In all likelihood, Republicans will control one (at least) branch of Congress after the election, and they understand Obama a lot better than he understands them. He actually thought that Boehner would be able to deliver a grand bargain, lest we forget! And wrecked the image of himself as a strong leader trying to get it. I still hope Obama can turn it around, but if he doesn’t, that will be considered the point where it all went bad, of this I’m certain.
Additionally, I don’t think this is another Al Gore 2000 situation. Parts of the left unwisely decided to ensure Gore’s defeat by going third-party, which in retrospect (and even at the time) made little strategic sense. It minimized the danger of the right at that time. But I don’t think that that’s what is happening today. I think Democrats are generally afraid of what Republicans plan to do if they get more power, I strongly suspect they just don’t think Obama is strong enough to stop them after Debtceilingdammerung. To some extent, this sentiment is the fault of Democrats not appreciating the constraints that the system imposes upon Obama. He can’t just declare the American Jobs Act law. But, additionally, there is an extent to which this is Obama neglecting his duties as party leader and not giving his troops a reason to fight, choosing rather to go after Bill Daley’s vision of what independents want, and trusting Tim Geithner’s lock-solid view of politics. Shockingly, trusting a second-tier Clinton Administration apparatchik and the guy behind the bailouts didn’t yield boffo political success. Put simply, maintaining morale is an important part of leadership. It goes both ways is all I’m saying.
Again, I can’t stress this enough, this is just one data point. Who knows where it winds up? But I can’t really blame liberals for not being enthusiastic about next year’s election. When you get down to it, Obama didn’t really try to change Washington during his first term, his plan was like Patrick Swayze’s from Road House (i.e. “Be Nice”), but without the asskicking ability to back that up. And Washington is the same as ever, if not more so. It’s hard to get pumped up over an indefinite* future of shitty compromises, gleefully violated political norms and routinely botched gestures. Why is that enticing? Especially since Obama shows little interest in doing anything about it, not even standing up to unprecedented obstruction of uncontroversial nominees. Admittedly, a totally GOP-run Washington is much worse than that, but those two choices are enough to depress a person altogether.
*Not really indefinite, considering the aging GOP demographics, but it sure seems that way now.
(hat tip: Mistermix)
Not good for my man Rick:
A new Public Policy Polling survey in Florida finds Mitt Romney leading Rick Perry in the GOP presidential race, 30% to 24%, followed by Newt Gingrich at 10%. All other candidates are in the single digits.
Key finding: “We started this poll on Thursday night before the debate and in those interviews the race was neck and neck with Romney at 33% and Perry at 31%. But in interviews done Friday-Sunday Romney’s lead expanded to double digits at 29-19. More telling might be what happened to Perry’s favorability numbers after the debate — on Thursday night he was at 63/23 with Florida Republicans. Friday-Sunday he was at 48/36. Perry’s poor performance may or may not prove to be a game changer nationally but it definitely appears to have hurt his image in the key state where it occurred.”
Let’s flash back to exactly two months ago, when I wrote:
I could be very wrong about this, but I don’t see Perry as an outstanding political talent. He inherited his job after Dubya was elected president, and kept it largely due to the state’s Republican inertia. His electoral victories have rarely been impressive (especially this one), and until this year he’s seemed completely unambitious, content to merely hold the job he inherited without doing much to notice or be talked about. Which is to say, he’s sort of like a political Jay Leno, and interest in his candidacy this year has had little to do with him pushing it so much as him fitting the profile that desperate GOP operatives want to fill.
Admittedly, my theory at the time was that Bachmann would dispatch Perry easily, so I’m not giving myself full credit for that prediction. But I think my take on Perry has proven to be pretty accurate. Increasingly, when I think of Perry, I keep finding parallels with another longserving governor of a big, ideological state who ran for president amidst a weak field: Mike Dukakis. There are more than a few parallels. Perry was evidently uninterested in running for president before this year based on his own statements and the fact that he put out a book with some extremely nutty positions. Dukakis, also, had not been terribly interested in running for president much before the campaign started. Perry was begged to enter the race by key activists unhappy with Romney, and he entered it because he figured he could win against a weak field. Dukakis, also, was begged to enter the race by his wife, his top aides, and some party bigwigs, and he ran because the field didn’t have Mario Cuomo or Ted Kennedy in it (Gary Hart was the frontrunner), and Dukakis figured he could win. The other major parallel is that neither Dukakis nor Perry made any attempt to change their approach or style in moving to the national stage. What It Takes documents this in great detail for The Duke, with Dukakis awkwardly splitting time trying to do his old job like he always had while running a full-time campaign, treating the national press like the local press he’d gotten along with forever, and continuing a style of delegation with his aides that wound up leading to the Biden Plagiarism hoax, which at the time greatly hurt Dukakis’s campaign, ironically coupled with his usual micromanaging style, in this case ignoring campaign professionals, that led to some of the PR disasters you all remember from the general election after fairly stumbling into the nomination. Perry has failed to adapt in a somewhat different way, in that has not moved to improve his skill as a debater, has not bothered to smooth out the rough edges that the general (and primary) electorates might have a problem with, and he has clearly just tried to coast just like he did in his various gubernatorial elections in Texas. And the results have been predictable. Dukakis’s failure came from trying to do too much in order to avoid giving up what he probably needed to give up, Perry’s failure (at least so far) has come from not trying to do enough. But neither one was willing to do what it took to succeed at that level, and in both cases there is an antipathy to the notion that they’d need to change themselves to succeed at this new level.
What is true of Dukakis, Perry, Fred Thompson, and all of these sorts of reluctant candidates is that they look great on paper, but almost always flop. Why is this? Because running for president isn’t something you can half-ass. It takes incredible energy to do it for two years, and unless there some sort of deep drive that comes from within someone who would become a candidate, there’s no way to successfully do it. I firmly believe that we need to alter our presidential election schedule, as it’s too long and distracting, and too hard on the people running for the post, but that’s a discussion for another time. Put simply, in our current system, the overwhelming advantage for the presidency goes to people who are willing to do anything to get the job. That’s really an entry-level requirement. Mitt Romney, obviously, will do anything to get it. Rick Perry, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to want to do that, at least not yet. I guess we’ll see if he panics at all about his falling poll numbers and changes things up.
They say that Mitch Daniels is one of the more honest and reality-based Republicans out there, which I guess is true. He is right that government does face limits when helping the unemployed. Of course, those limits are self-imposed by the political establishment and the Republican Party, but still.
When you get down to it, this is the sort of thing that Democrats need to bring to light. Republicans talk about limited government, which is one of those things that is hard to be against. Everyone wants limits on the government! Well, except for tyrants I suppose. (Case in point.) But what are those limits? That’s the key. Apparently, one of the more reasonable Republicans around believes that one of those limits ought to be on helping those struggling. I doubt very many voters agree on that. What I find frustrating about Daniels is that he (very often) seems aware of the problems we face as a country–more so than any Republican I’ve listened to in recent times. But like the rest of them he worships at the altar of the messy, increasingly random crosspollenization of Rand/Hayek/Friedman/Ron Paul ideas that Republicans call their current belief system, and the limits of that system make it impossible to address those problems with any effectiveness. It’s a shame, too. There are plenty of smart Republicans, and if there were a way to save the middle class with union busting, tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation, it’s hard to imagine someone like Daniels wouldn’t have figured it out and made everyone believe it. But there’s just not a way to do that, and the more I read from Daniels, the more I suspect he knows it on more than a subconscious level and that it bothers him.
I intermittently follow British politics, and my working assumption was that Opposition Leader Ed Miliband is something of a Blairesque Third Way guy. But perhaps I was wrong:
In a high-risk speech to the Labour conference in Liverpool, Miliband presented himself as the man “willing to break the consensus rather than succumb to it”.
He promised a tough fight to recast a new capitalism built around British values that reward the hard-working grafters and producers in business, and not the asset-stripping “predators”.
Miliband’s aides insisted the speech did not represent a lurch to the left, as immediately claimed by the Conservatives, but instead a decisive break from “a something for nothing” system that grew up under Thatcherism and that New Labour had been unable to correct.
“Britain’s problems stemmed from the way we have chosen to run our country, not just for a year or so, but for decades,” Miliband said. New Labour “had brought good times, but this did not mean we had a good economic system. We changed the fabric of our country, but we did not do enough to change the values of our country.” [snip]
He said: “We have allowed values which say take what you can, I’m in it for myself, to create a Britain that is too unequal. The people at the top taking unjustified rewards is not just bad for the economy. It sends out a message throughout society about what values are OK. And inequality reinforces privilege and opportunity for the few.” He also tried to present himself to a sceptical country as someone with leadership qualities and a valuable, personal backstory. He said he had the heritage of the outsider and the vantage point of the insider, making him the “guy who is determined to break the closed circles of Britain”.
I find myself not terribly moved by political rhetoric of most sorts these days. I suppose this differentiates me from a certain kind of liberal who thinks that everything would be better if Obama had torn Republicans apart verbally, but I see rhetoric as secondary to the actual decisions that are made on what to do, and really that is why I’ve had a hard time being optimistic about the course of American politics as of late. But despite this, Miliband’s rhetoric here is really good and sharp, it gets a lot right about the current moment, and it’s sort of what I’d like to hear more of out of progressives here. It’s not left-wing to believe that hard work ought to be rewarded, and that big mistakes that cost all of us money are bad. It’s what any normal person with a brain would agree with. Conservatives get lots of success out of folksy metaphors, why not try that ourselves? If you can get that message through, it’s one that the other side would be very hard-pressed to disagree with. Obviously this is a tricky argument to make without freaking out business, but I think it’s doable.
Let’s not get carried away here, though, about the progressiveness on display as this is in there too, “If the deficit was not eliminated in this parliament, a Labour government would finish the task, [Miliband] said.” But this is pretty good: “Only David Cameron, he said, ‘could believe you make ordinary families work harder by making them poorer and you make the rich harder by making them richer’.” That’s a nice, compact way of getting the point of austerity across, and it’s arguably truer here than it is there.
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