Monday, July 25, 2005

The Life Preserver Presidency

Jonathan Rauch of National Journal and Reason has a new article analyzing the poll numbers and apparent lame duck status of this Adminstration, and questions just how long the Republican Party can remain in power. His conclusion? If the current disgruntlement of the center continues, not for long. It is only in one issue that the Republicans maintain an advantage with the center, which we shall get into in a bit. First, the key 'graf of the article:
From independents' point of view, the problem is not the process ("getting things done"). The problem is getting things solved. Independents are pragmatists. They want to see results, or else they want to see Plan B. On some of the country's most pressing problems—Iraq, Iranian and North Korean nuclear proliferation, the deficit—they see neither. Instead, they see a Republican establishment that seems to relish teeing up confrontations over social issues while North Korea builds nukes and gasoline prices rise. On issue after issue, in short, independents look like Democrats. Moderate Democrats, to be sure. Unlike Democratic partisans, they don't hate Bush. But they don't share his priorities, don't like his program, and don't feel he has the country's problems well in hand.

Rauch makes a great point, here, and I think summarizes the attitude of independents and moderates like myself pretty well. It seems that way too much emphasis is placed on so-called 'social issues' as a distraction from the real problems of the world: fuel prices and research, North Korea, China, Iran, the looming Medicare crisis...
So, what then is the saving grace for the Republican Party? Terrorism. Rauch argues that poll after poll indicates that
On terrorism, independents flip: They side with Republicans. They disapprove of Bush's handling of the economy and Iraq (according to the CBS News poll), but they approve, by 50 to 38 percent, of his handling of the war on terror. True, they have reservations. They think the government could have done more. But a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken just after the London bombings, earlier this month, tells the story: 54 percent of independents (against 91 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of Democrats) said they had a great deal or a moderate amount of confidence in the Bush administration to protect Americans from terrorism, versus 45 percent who had not much or no confidence. Similarly, majorities of independents side with Republicans, and against Democrats, in supporting continued operation of the Pentagon's detention camp at Guantanamo and in approving of the treatment of prisoners there.

So it is terrorism that is keeping this Administration afloat. I'm not sure I really agree with those independents that say the Administration is doing an effective job; after all, the so-called 'flypaper theory' has obviously been proven a failure, our borders remain incredibly unsecured, Homeland Security has done little about inherent security flaws in shipping and harbors, and much of the cost of protecting tunnels and subways has been passed off to the states.
Rauch finshes his piece comparing the Republican advantage on terrorism with the Democrats old advantage in the economy; if it disappears, so does the power of the party.
Think of Bush's administration, then, as a life-preserver presidency, kept afloat by a single crucial issue...The trouble with a life preserver, after all, is that you neglect to swim.

How long until the Republican start to sink?
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)
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