America's political parties compete in an unpopularity contest where they take turns becoming unpopular. Clinton famously damaged his popularity somewhat with Monica Lewinsky and a few policies. Though low unemployment from the dot com bubble really put a floor on how far his popularity could drop. By contrast, George W. Bush made bigger mistakes with the Iraq War and loose credit for housing and the Republicans lost both houses of Congress and the Presidency. Way to go Dubya! Now Barack Obama and the Democrats once more have a chance to make themselves unpopular. Barack Obama's approval rating dropped to 47% and 46 disapproved. The attempt by the Democrats to pass a big health care plan is backfiring on their popularity.
Democrats' problems seem in part linked to their ambitious health-care plan, billed as the signature achievement of Mr. Obama's first year. Now, for the first time, more people said they would prefer Congress did nothing on health care than who wanted to see the overhaul enacted.
The recession (mostly caused by George W. Bush's housing credit policies and the approach of Peak Oil) is hurting Obama because people simplistically blame the guy in power at the moment and can't remember policies of a few years ago (unless they are political bloggers who obsess on the mistakes the other party made - while not noticing the mistakes their own parties made that contributed to a mess).
"For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. "What we don't know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?"
At 10% unemployment any US President is going to suffer declining popularity. Obama even more so because he's looking like a lightweight.
Some Democrats see health care as an issue where they could win back some popularity if they could just pass the bill. But several Senate Democrats see the current bill as a big threat to their desire for reelection. So Megan McArdle thinks some Senate Democrats secretly do not want to see a vote on the bill. Megan thinks the left of the Democratic party never had enough support for what they were trying to pull off.
This bill is, at this point, hideously unpopular. I'm pretty sure you've got a bunch of senators who would really, really love not to vote for it. Ultimately, the moderates had a very good alternative to negotiated agreement, and the progressives didn't, and that was crystal clear from Day 1. That meant the progressives were never, ever going to get very much. This was not a failure of political will or political skill. It was the manifestation of a political reality that has long been obvious to everyone who wasn't living in a fantasy world. If progressives decide that the lesson from this is that they haven't been sufficiently demanding and intransigent, they are going to find themselves about as popular with the rest of America as the Bush Republicans, and probably lose their party the House next year.
Could the Democrats lose the control of the House in November 2010? The advantage for Republicans of the Democrats maintaining that control by a small margin: Come 2012 the Democrats won't be able to spread the blame for poor economic performance across 2 parties if a single party controls both houses of Congress and the White House.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2009 December 17 09:34 PM Politics American Presidency|