There has been a lot made over a Washington Post/ABC News poll on party identification, showing a decline in those calling themselves Republican. The faults of the poll’s demographic metric aside, let us place this poll into context with the greater machinations that we’ve seen. But to do this properly, we have to consider this political environment with that of the last eight years.
We’ll start with 2002. The norm in mid-term elections is that the incumbent first-term President loses party seats, but in ’02- for the first time since 1934- the GOP made gains in both the House (229) and Senate (51). In ’04, not only did President Bush win reelection, but again his party made gains in the House (231) and Senate (55). All of this in the face of 9/11, the Iraq war, an economy still recovering from the tech bubble bursting and unprecedented 19.2% increase federal discrepancy expenditures.
Then came the Samarra Mosque bombing in Iraq and that conflict’s spiral into uncontrolled communal violence. This became the straw that broke the electoral back, with the electorate rebuking the Administrations mismanagement of the war and no longer turning a blind eye to the incumbencies failure at fiscal responsibility.
2006 saw a shift to the Dems in House (233) and Senate (51) leadership. The GOP continued to implode by putting forward a luke-warm candidate who had what will likely go down as the worst run presidential campaign in history. This, combined with Bush’s second-term 25.3% increase in federal discrepancy expenditures sealed the GOP’s fate in the presidential election as well as increased Dem control of the House (257) and Senate (59).
Seeing this, one might come to the conclusion that the country moved toward embracing the Dem party, but this ignores some key points identified in a couple of polls. In ’02, a national poll by Pew Research on party identification showed a break out of 34% Dem, 33% GOP and 32% Independent. Since the GOP made gains, it is obvious that the Independents went with the GOP. Again, the same thing happened in ’04- 35% Dem, 33% GOP and 32% Independent. In ’06, party identification was 35% Dem, 31% GOP and 34% Independent and in ’08 it was 36% Dem, 27% GOP and 37% Independent. These numbers show a migration from the GOP to the Independents and is reinforced by the aforementioned Washington Post/ABC News poll, which showed current party identification at 33% Dem, 20% GOP and 42% Independent. This is a dramatic change from what the poll recorded on election day in ’08 (35% Dem, 26% GOP and 30% Independent).
This brings us to the second poll by Gallup on political ideology. In 2002, the nation identified itself with conservatives (38%) and moderates (38%) over liberals (19%), and again in ’04 with conservatives (40%) and moderates (38%) versus liberals (19%). But in ’06 and ‘08, the nation identified its political ideology at conservative (37%) and moderate (38%) versus liberal (21%) and conservative (37%) and moderate (38%) versus liberal (22%), respectively. Essentially, the nation was fairly static in its political ideology, showing the nation as predominantly a center right nation. In the most recent poll, Gallup again identifies the nation as conservative (40%) and moderate (36%) versus liberal (20%).
So, what does all this mean? Well, it means several things, first of which is that don’t confuse Republicans with Conservatives. Conservatives vote with and for the GOP because the alternative- the Dems- is simply not acceptable. Independents decide elections, but they tend to call themselves conservatives or moderates. Secondly, liberals are clearly in the minority and are outnumbered 4 to 1 by conservatives and moderates.
Why is this important? Because this may be a bell weather to what we can expect in the 2010 mid-term elections. In a generic ballot, Gallup finds Dems with a slight lead over the GOP, 46% to 44%, but Rasmussen’s generic ballot poll shows the GOP leading Dems 42% to 38%.
An NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll finds that Congress has a 24% Approval rate with 65% Disapproving. 36% say the country is headed in the right direction, while 62% say its going in the wrong direction.
This same poll gives President Obama a 51% Approve, 42% Disapprove rating while a Gallup poll show’s Obama’s approval rating plummeting a record 9 points from inauguration to 53%. Rasmussen, which uses a Presidential Index comparing strongly approves to strongly disapproves, has shown Obama in negative territory since June with the current index at -11 (30% strongly approve to 41% strongly disapprove) and a general approval rating of 48% against 52% who disapprove.
On top of this, place into context the nation’s current mood on certain signature political issues. Rasmussen shows the nation trusts the GOP over Dems on ten key issues: Healthcare 46%/40%; Education 43/38; Social Security 45/37; Taxes 50/35; the Economy 49/35; Abortion 47/35; Immigration 40/33; National Security 54/31; Iraq 50/31; and Government Ethics 33/29. Gallup’s poll on Moral Issues shows a consistent shift to the right.
Here’s the bottom line, we’re seeing a conservative ascendency in this nation. The nation is becoming more conservative, not less, and this could potentially translate to huge gains for the GOP in 2010, provide they accept and embrace the founding principles of the party and the overall political ideology of the nation. The Dems recognize this, or at least White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel does, as this was part of the Dem strategy in ’06 to pull seats away from the GOP by running conservative or moderate dems in red districts. This was reinforced when Rahm criticized liberal groups who were targeting conservative Dems on healthcare.
But these conservative Dems are in dangerous waters now, as the White House and Congressional leadership, headed by radical liberals, force them to vote for bills that are increasingly running counter to the wishes of the American people. Dems can continue to ignore the writing on the wall, and more importantly the American people, but there is a growing ground swell of an anti-establishment movement in this country, and the figurative bulleye is on the incumbency.