May 12, 2006

Well There's Yer Problem, Mac!

Hatched by Dafydd

I took a look at the new Harris Poll, as reported in the Wall Street Journal (paid subscription probably required), which shows President Bush's job approval rating dropping down to 29% approval, 71% disapproval. As is its wont, Harris refuses to reveal how many Republicans and Democrats were in its sample; but that's of no moment, for the culprit behind Bush's current so-called "free fall" is perfectly obvious: "it's the Republicans, stupid."

Republicans -- in particular, conservatives -- are so negative about their own president, I can only conclude that they're sabotaging the president's job approval numbers in order to try to push him towards their own political positions. There is no other plausible explanation for such bizarre results:

First, Bush's job approval by whether the respondent describes himself as a Republican, Independent, or Democrat:

Table 1: President Bush's Job Approval By Party Affiliation
  Total Republican Independent Democratic
Approve 29% 67% 19% 10%
Disapprove 71% 33% 81% 90%

Next, by whether the respondent describes himself as a conservative, moderate, or liberal:

Table 2: President Bush's Job Approval By Political Philosophy
  Total Conservative Moderate Liberal
Approve 29% 46% 24% 10%
Disapprove 71% 53% 76% 90%

Two points to note, one obvious, the other more subtle:

  • Pretty clearly, Bush's huge problem right now is that Republicans are slamming him to pollsters. Looking at table 2, it appears the real driving force behind this trend is the conservative wing of the Republican Party... which is actually giving Bush a net negative job-approval rating.
  • But here is the subtler point. Look at the differences between Table 1 and Table 2. There is a much larger gap between Republicans and conservatives than there is between Democrats and liberals or between Independents and moderates.

In the last column, there is literally no difference at all between Democrats and Liberals; both have identical ratings of 10% approval, 90% disapproval. This indicates a very strong party discipline, with "rank and file" moderate Democrats falling into lockstep behind their much more liberal leadership.

There is some minor distinction between Independents and moderates; Bush's approval is slightly higher among the latter. My guess is this represents Republican moderates, fewer of whom think Bush is too conservative than do Independent moderates.

But there is a yawning gulf between Republicans and Conservatives: 67% of Republicans support the president, but only 46% of conservatives. But why? What does this mean?

Obviously, the 53% of conservatives who disapprove of the job Bush is doing think he's not being conservative enough; and I suspect they believe that by withholding approval, they will somehow push him rightwards.

But the reality is that this is amazingly self-defeating... since the obvious beneficiaries of a weakened President Bush are the Democrats, and in particular, the liberal Democrats -- not the conservatives.

It's also self-fulfilling, because a president perceived as being weak will find it harder to push Congress... and the congressional Republicans are actually more liberal than the president right now. Thus, a stronger Congress and a weaker president will move the country in a more liberal direction.

Because the country is not as conservative as the conservatives wish it were, Bush and the Republicans in Congress cannot get a pure conservative agenda enacted; they must compromise. However, it appears that conservative Republicans are getting more and more impatient with any compromise at all; they're becoming just as intolerant as liberal Democrats.

I am not a conservative, but I share far more values with them than with moderates. And I'm very much afraid that pouting conservatives could hand the 2006 election to the Democrats in order to "teach the Republicans a lesson." Of course, the result of that will be even more moderate and liberal Republicans, as they seek the new, leftward-drifting center of the electorate.

If conservatives want to wield power within the Republican Party, they need to do the opposite: they need to embrace the president and strengthen his hand against Congress.

Congress comprises two houses; neither is consistently conservative. The House just passed a much more conservative immigration bill -- but it's DOA in the Senate. Contrariwise, it was the House that panicked at high gas prices and first began talking about investigating the oil companies for "price gouging." And it was the Senate that then proposed a $100 give-away. Yet it was the House last March that dropped ANWR drilling from the budget resolution.

See what I mean? Every conservative step forward by one house is immediately followed by a liberal step backward in the other. Well, there's yer problem, Mac!

In fact, Bush has done a very good job on some major issues pushing Congress to the right -- especially on judges, but also on tax cuts, a strong military, attempts to reform the CIA to shift it from a cold-war mentality to an anti-jihadi mentality, and in prosecuting the war in Iraq. He has a better record than Congress taken as a whole.

I suspect that some portion of conservative disapproval comes from the William F. Buckley, Bill Kristol wing of the conservative movement: the isolationists seemingly don't understand the necessity of a forward engagement. They wonder why we don't just withdraw all the troops to "Fortress America" and stop getting involved in "foreign entanglements."

Bush and the Republicans can certainly help themselves by being more actively conservative on some fronts. If the immigration deal in Congress has a strong enforcement component, I think that will help a lot: conservative commentators have been telling their conservative listeners that the deal has no enforcement at all, that it's just an amnesty giveaway -- which is a wild exaggeration. If Americans subsequently see that it does include a fence and strong enforcement of the border, the difference between their lowered expectations and the reality will give Bush a boost.

He does not need to jettison (and shouldn't) those elements of immigration other than the fence; but he should start emphasizing the fence more. Recent discussions about finding ways consistent with Posse Comitatus to get the U.S. military engaged on the border are likely to help him some, as would be a committment to start building the fence before any "regularization" of illegal immigrants.

And Bush should also find occasion to pick a fight over some Democratic wedge issue -- I think the upcoming Michael Hayden confirmation hearings would be good for that, but only if the president first lays the groundwork by explaining how "traffic analysis" works, shows how it uncovers terrorist plots, and assures ordinary Americans that their private information (name, address, living habits) is not being stored by the National Security Agency. Tony Snow will be vital in this communications effort.

Once Americans are comfortable with the NSA traffic-analysis program, it will be as popular as the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program became, once Americans learned what they really were doing (rather than the Democratic caricature). At that point, Democratic obstruction of intelligence anti-terrorist programs will cut against them, not against the Republicans or President Bush.

If Bush were to recapture the Republican Party -- if he could get a 90% approval to match the 90% lockstep disapproval by Democrats -- then his job-approval would rise substantially. Even with pollsters oversampling Democrats (as they customarily do), a rise of 23% among Republicans translates to a rise of 10% in the overall polls, which would put Bush in the low forties.

Some good news on the Iraq front (which will definitely be coming by November, as the mission is going tremendously better than the antique media report) would lift the Independent and even some Democratic support... and we could head into the midterms with Bush in the mid-to-upper forties in job approval.

And that would be good news for all Republicans... even conservatives.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 12, 2006, at the time of 3:41 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this hissing:


The following hissed in response by: Airdale

Out of control spending, pork-laden earmarks, huge outlays for Medicare prescription drugs and an open borders, amnesty for all, Vincente Fox position on immigration. . . yup, that's the way to get conservatives onboard!

The above hissed in response by: Airdale [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 12, 2006 4:23 PM

The following hissed in response by: Papa Ray

What Airdale said.


The same goes for our congressvarmits, except for a few, they all deserve to be unemployed very, very soon. And the American public needs to be educated on American History, politics and politicians.

Better choices, makes for better results.

Papa Ray
West Texas

The above hissed in response by: Papa Ray [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 12, 2006 4:29 PM

The following hissed in response by: Stephen Macklin

When push comes to shove, conservatives will probably come to bat for the GOP. Regardless of their displeasure with Bush and congressional Republicans, in the end they will likely decide that center-slightly right is a good deal better that left-slightly center. As hard as it is to get conservative policies from today's GOP it is certainly going to be harder to get them out of the Dems.

It is one thing to express your displeasure in an opinion poll, another thing to turn the government back over to the liberals.

The above hissed in response by: Stephen Macklin [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 12, 2006 5:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: Towering Barbarian

[Nods in agreement with Stephan]

There's several other factors to consider here.

1. There are a number of "Scoop Jackson Democrats" who while sincerely conservative are still loyal Democrats. Expecting them to approve of a Republican President in an election year would be just plain silly. Expecting them to declare themselves GOPers when they aren't would also be wrong.

2. In contradiction to #1, have you ever been on the Yahoo MBs when one of the sillier liberals went into his "We're the *real* conservatives." song and dance? Right after they had just already written a previous post that could have come line by line from the DU? I don't know whether such guys are sincerely delusional or just trying to be irritating but I could see a few of them claiming to be conservative if polled but still unable to bring themselves to declare themselves Republican.

3. A third fact that comes to mind is that Mr. Bush is not eligible for re-election so from the point of view of a lot of people this poll is basically the gripe session before the dead dog party anyway. They don't think in terms of whether it would strengthen or weaken his hand with Congress because they don't think Congress would be clueless enough to care. (I know that in my own case I tend to think of the Truman/Dewey election as evidence that polls are somewhat less worthy of respect that a reasonably entertaining horoscope although somewhat more scientific than the study of tea leaves).

One problem I have with the fence notion is that nobody seems willing to discuss cost or maintenance seriously (Even if we assume no sabotage there is still going to be wear and tear). I've read 1.2 billion in one paper, but even there that figure seemed to be plucked from out of the air and I don't like the sound of openended projects where the price tag hasn't been discussed. But that's wandering offtopic so I may as well cut off here.

The above hissed in response by: Towering Barbarian [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 12, 2006 11:25 PM

The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

You want an open ended project where the price tag hasn't been discussed? Hey, look no further than the cost of Medicaid, Education, or other Social Services for Illegal Aliens and you are right there.

I understand why Conservatives have expressed disapproval with our President; he's not doing anything Conservative, and is actively doing things that are the opposite of what the Conservatives want. Hey, he should EXPECT to lose us in the Poles. He's not running again, but those Republicans who ARE, can read polls too... and we really do want to rein in Spending and Secure our Borders.

Now, if the President announces one or both of those measures on Monday, he may just GET that 10%+ bounce in the Polls... imagine the results on our current political stage.

"Run for office on lower spending and/or Secure Border and get a 10% bounce in the Polls".

Somehow, I think it would have a dramatic effect...

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2006 7:25 AM

The following hissed in response by: JGUNS

AMEN Dafydd,

I have been saying this for a long time. Conservatives like Laurah Ingraham point to the low poll numbers and say that it is because Bush is doing nothing on immigration, and because he has refused to address the issue for so long. I say that the numbers have gone down SINCE Bush has addressed Immigration. I believe that he didn't address it, because he knew that the issue would split conservatives, and what do you know IT DID! So now those conservatives who have staked a hard line on immigration: Prosectution and deportation. So yes, Dafydd's point is absolutely correct, conservatives are demanding that Bush cater to their position and doing it by withdrawing their support. Conservatives are usually smart and practical, and in this matter they are showing how STUPID AND SHORTSIGHTED they can be. In fact, they are looking a hell of a lot like democrats: Petulant little children.

Well, republicans, you can play your little games now, but when the democrats have taken the house, the senate and the presidency, just remember that it is YOUR FAULT!

The above hissed in response by: JGUNS [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2006 9:19 AM

The following hissed in response by: JGUNS

One more thing, for the people that are saying "he is not doing anything conservative." YOU KNEW THAT WHEN YOU VOTED FOR HIM! He has always spent money, he did that first term. You didn't vote for him because of that, you voted for him because of his stance on terror and the economy. Well, he hasn't changed that AT ALL! SO why turn your backs on him now? All youre doing is affecting his ability to do the things that you elected him on!

The above hissed in response by: JGUNS [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2006 9:31 AM

The following hissed in response by: Papa Ray

Well, maybe us "Petulant little children" want to prove a point. Mainly to the do nothing good, spend our money like it was theirs, then walk off and not oversee the spending, application or effectiveness of their dysfunctional efforts, Senators and Representives.

And for the President, he has not been one in the last year, except in name only. He has lost whatever he had and replaced it with jello, religious indecision and lack of leadership.

He's gone anyway, but we need to "teach" republican politicians that they can't be one thing while saying they are something else. We have been letting them use smoke and mirrors and lies for too long. They need to go to the back of the unemployed line.

Maybe then, the next bunch will know what is expected of them and deliver.

We can survive a few years of idiot democrats.

Papa Ray
West Texas

The above hissed in response by: Papa Ray [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2006 2:14 PM

The following hissed in response by: JGUNS

"we can survive a few years of idiot democrats"


I don't know about you, but there are some people's children in this country that probably wouldn't "survive" those years once the dem's get their hands on the country's national security.

As for the President and his spending...seems to me that the president isn't the one putting the Pork into the bills, it is the Republican and democrat senators. Therefore I am not sure how giving the president a bad poll is going to "send a message" to them, if that is what you think you are doing. I guess I am missing the boat, if the President has been a president "in name only" these past few years (except for that pesky winning the terror war thing he is doing, oh and nevermind the economy too), then how exactly is giving him a NEGATIVE rating suppose to help YOUR cause? Giving the PRESIDENT a negative rating doesn't TEACH Republicans anything... in fact it could do quite the opposite. It can "teach" them NOT to take a stand on immigration, NOT to be decisive in the war on terror, and it can teach them to fund even BIGGER government, because after all didn't the president's numbers go down and a number of prominent Republican's denounce the President after he talked about using a line item veto?

I guess I am one of those few people that would take a Republican president "in name only" over Democrats for the next few years. Afterall, my concerns are only my Job, my family, and the lives of my countrymen. I will leave it to others to teach those Republicans a lesson in the vain hopes that somehow, some way the government will reform to my vision of a perfect government.

Also, can you explain what the presidents "religious indecision" means and how that has anything to do with anything?

The above hissed in response by: JGUNS [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2006 2:32 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Papa Ray:

This appears to be your thesis:

  1. The Republicans are not being conservative enough, and the country is off on the wrong (liberal) track.
  2. Therefore, I will withhold support from the Republicans, so that the Democrats -- in thrall to the most liberal wing of that party -- can take over the country.
  3. One hopes that the Democrats will be so liberal and cause so much destruction in the United States, that the people will long for a strong conservative to ride in on a white horse and take over.
  4. One hopes that the conservative who does so will be a "small-government" conservative, rather than a big-government fascist.
  5. One hopes that the destruction won't be so great that it's unrecoverable.
  6. One hopes too many people won't die in the meantime.
  7. One hopes that the jihadis will not win the war in the meantime.
  8. One hopes that the Democrats will not rig the electoral system even further to make it impossible for said small-government conservative to win.
  9. One hopes there won't be a third-party vote-splitter.
  10. One hopes that all this will happen in a reasonable period of time, so we'll still be around to see it.
  11. And that will teach those Republicans a good, hard lesson!

As the man you love to hate has said: "Hoping for the best" is not a strategy.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2006 3:38 PM

The following hissed in response by: Papa Ray

Sorry guys, I was only kidding. What I really want to do is take all of those in DC (except for a few) and send them to Mexico to live for 5 or 6 years. or maybe Iraq. Maybe that will teach them a lesson.

They are the ones with the power. Presidents come and go, Bush has gone. He loves the Mexicans and Islam too much for me and millions of other Americans. Maybe he needs to start having Sunday morning religious meetings instead of radio addresses.

Oh, Bush isn't winning anything in Iraq or Afgan. Our Military is. They will be there, even when Bush is back in Crawford.

Papa Ray

Papa Ray

The above hissed in response by: Papa Ray [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2006 4:44 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Papa Ray:

Oh, Bush isn't winning anything in Iraq or Afgan. Our Military is. They will be there, even when Bush is back in Crawford.

They weren't winning when Bill Clinton was president; they didn't win in Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, or Kosovo.

And what makes you think the military would still be in Iraq and Afghanistan if, God forbid, John Kerry were elected president in 2008?

I think they would be yanked out as fast as he could, so that we'd have another "Vietnam"... which Kerry would blame on his predecessor. "See? I told you we should never have gone in there in the first place; right after I told you it was vital we go in there in the first place."

This is why I think it's extraordinarily self-defeating for conservatives to call Bush a liberal, say he is no different from the Democrats, then use that mischaracterization as an excuse to sit on their hands in November: everything you don't like from Bush and the Republicans is exactly what you're going to get under the Democrats -- in spades and doubled.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2006 7:45 PM

The following hissed in response by: JGUNS

Exactly Dafydd.

I saw something on Powerline that also supports what you and I have been saying:

"First, conservatives need to understand that the failure of Republicans to govern as strong conservatives is not the result of moral defects (although some can be found). The core problem is that conservatives do not make up a majority of the electorate. Republicans need the base, but they also need swing voters -- they can't win without both. A defeat at the polls won't change this. Instead, it will give liberals a chance to govern. They likely will do this in a center-left fashion or worse, and conservatives will be the main losers.

We should also keep in mind that, because this is still a great country, once a party takes power there's a good chance it will keep it for years. But for a 50-50 race in Florida going Bush's way, we'd probably be in our 14th straight year of a Democratic presidency. The country likely would have rallied around President Gore after 9/11, thus enabling the Dems to increase their majority in the Senate in 2002 and perhaps recapture the House that year or in 2004.

So let's push Republicans to build the fence and get a better grip on spending. But let's not fool ourselves into believing that the question of which party holds power is a matter of indifference or that, if defeated, the Republicans are likely to return quickly to power as a much more conservative force."

It just scares me when so many Republicans/conservatives seem so willing to turn over the reins of our country to a party as dangerous as the democrats just out of spite, and with nothing but hope for reasoning.

The above hissed in response by: JGUNS [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2006 9:47 PM

Post a comment

Thanks for hissing in, . Now you can slither in with a comment, o wise. (sign out)

(If you haven't hissed a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Hang loose; don't shed your skin!)

Remember me unto the end of days?

© 2005-2009 by Dafydd ab Hugh - All Rights Reserved