Saturday, May 06, 2006

Can the Democrats knock out the Republicans?

Can the Democrats give the GOP a knock out punch in the upcoming mid-term elections? Two years ago it was unthinkable. But the immense bungling and dishonesty of the Bush administration is making it more likely with each passing day.

Just about each new opinion poll brings bad news to the White House. It appears that Bush's big government authoritarianism is not going down with the public. People don't trust him. They don't believe him and they don't like him. Only about one-third of the public continue to support Bush. And the new lows show a decline in support from one of his last bastions -- conservatives.

Self-described conservatives barely approve of the president with 45% opposing him. A majority of voters say they want the Republicans defeated and even 31% of conservatives say they can no longer support the Republican Party. In addition 72% of all voters say the nation is on the wrong track and 60% of conseratives agree. ABC news quoted one conservative voter saying: "I think he's the dumbest president we've ever had. I disapprove of a lot of the stuff he's doing. The war was a big boo-boo and he won't admit he did wrong."

All this spells trouble for the Republicans. It seems that abandoning the Reagan/Goldwater limited government program is doing them no good. While fundamentalist Christians may stand by Bush come hell or high water the traditional conservatives who made up the Republican Party until the Christianist take over do not. Since American voters are split between Democrats, Republicans and Indepdents the Republicans need the support of Independent voters to pull off a victory. But they won't get it and they are now losing support among their own members as well. Before the 2004 election 27% of voters said they were strong Republicans but that number has halved since then to just 15%.

And how are the Republicans dealing with this massive slide in support? They are appealing to base prejudices and ignoring the real issues that concern voters. They do not address the massive deficit that Bush has imposed on the American people. They do not address the shere incompetency of the administration in everything from Iraq to Katrina. They do not address the problem that a huge percentage of people believe Bush, Cheny, Rumsfeld, et al, to be dishonest and deceptive. Instead they want to drive fundamentalists to the polls with anti-gay ballot measures or push through irrelevent issues like a ban on burning the American flag.

At the state level Republicans are pushing a Christianist agenda of banning abortion full stop. South Dakota did so and is just the first state of many planning such a move. At the moment these laws would run into the old Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court but Bush has put two big government conservatives on the court and Republicans think they can get the court to reverse itself now. The Republican (for now at least) Senate is headed for approving a change to the US Constitution to explicitly ban people from burning flags.

Republican Senator Arlen Specter, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, is supporting the bill. He says that there is no such thing as a right to absolute free speech and the tipping point is when "so many people are grossly offended". In other words there is no such things as rights only majority opinion. The sponsor of the bill in the House of Representatives was Repuiblican congressman Randy Cunningham. But Cunnignham won't be supporting the measure this time around since he is currently in prison for 8 years for accepting bribes amounting to $2.4 million.

The real threat to the Republicans would be if the Democrats wised up. If the Democrats reappraised their anti-free market position, were stronger in opposition to the war in Iraq, and stood firm on most social issues they would be swept into both chambers of the Congress without a problem. But Democrats have a suicidal tendency. When the extremist conservatives in the GOP are discredited the Democrats think that gives them a blank check to jump to a more extreme left-wing position. The end result is that the more the Democrats campaign for office the more votes the Republicans receive.

A fiscally conservative, small government Democrat could go a long way. Already about two thirds of voters are inclined to support the Democrats simply because they are not Republicans. A more pro-market position could bring over about half of traditional voters to the Democrats leaving the theocrats in the White House clamouring for the support of only about a quarter of the country. Democrats could hand the Republicans one of the biggest defeats in history if they play it sane. But don't bet on it.