Thursday, October 12, 2006
Voice of the People
Midterm Elections * The Unaware (of Guns in Schools) President
The message is loud and clear. The voters have had enough of the party in power and its arrogance; its unhealthy relationship with the lobbyists of 'K' Street; and its "bridge to nowhere" pork-barrel legislations. Twentysix days before mid-term elections there can be no doubt about the Republicans' fall from grace. They are vulnerable and they know it. The fear is palpable. Even the God-factor is not doing them much good. Now,as David Broder commented in his column in the Post, all that remains is for the voters to 'pull the trigger'. "The old theater adage demands that if you show a pistol in Act 1, you'd better fire the gun in Act 3. That same wisdom applies to politics. The voters have been pointing a symbolic gun at the Republican regime in Washington for many months now. All that remains is for them to pull the trigger on Election Day."
When you examine the latest round of preelection polls, what is striking is the stability of public attitudes over the preceding months. In this week's Post-ABC News poll, for example, President Bush has a job approval score of 39 percent, with 60 percent disapproving. Eleven months earlier, in November 2005, the scores were identical.
In between, Bush got up as high as 47 percent and fell as low as 33 percent. But at no time did more Americans approve of his job performance than disapprove.
The public has shown similar consistency with party support for Congress. In the latest poll, Democrats lead Republicans, 54 percent to 41 percent, among registered voters. In November 2005 the Democrats led 52 percent to 37 percent. The margins are almost identical.
To take one more example, look at the broad question of the overall direction of the nation -- right path or wrong track. In this latest poll, by a margin of 66 percent to 32 percent, people said "wrong track." Last November the comparable numbers were 68 and 30 percent.
What all this suggests is a settled judgment on the part of the majority of Americans that the current leadership of the nation is not doing the job that people expect. This is the government the people chose in 2004, but now they are showing clear signs of buyer's remorse.
The disillusionment is not the product of the Foley scandal, which is shifting few votes, as far as I can judge. And it also reflects more than the continuing bad news from Iraq, though that has had a large effect on public opinion.
What is driving public opinion is an overall impression that those in office -- meaning mainly Republicans -- have let things slide out of control and need to be relieved.
First lady Laura Bush was nearly as good, giving a seven-minute speech at yesterday's White House Conference on School Safety without mentioning guns. Two longtime aides, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, deftly led hours of panels at the National 4-H building in Chevy Chase with only a few glancing references to weapons."