Unpopular congress, unpopular party

M. Simon made the following observation about politicians last night:

Politicians use words the same way squids use ink. To cover their tracks.
I think that in the current political climate, most voters understand the above implicitly.

A brief review of the current numbers from RealClearPolitics is in order:

President Obama Job Approval

RCP Average
Approve
60.8
Disapprove
32.0
Spread +28.8

Congressional Job Approval

RCP Average
Approve
31.8
Disapprove
60.5
Spread -28.7

Generic Congressional Vote

RCP Average
Democrats
39.7
Republicans
35.0
Democrats +4.7

Now, it's easy to look at the low congressional numbers and say that it is obviously the Republicans' job to convince the voters that only they are the party which has principles. But if we assume voter cynicism about politicians accounts for the low congressional numbers, how feasible of a goal is it to convince them that the Republicans (who only lost power recently) are suddenly sincere and more principled? I'm not saying that principles should be abandoned or discarded, but I do think there's an important point which must not be overlooked, and that is the instinctive distrust ordinary people have of power. Especially entrenched and corrupt power.

If we juxtapose Obama's high numbers with Congress's low numbers, how might the discrepancy be explained? The primary difference between Obama and Congress is not political (both are Democratic), but freshness. Obama is still new (and bear in mind his approval numbers are not strong), while Congress is old, rotten, and corrupt to the core. It is obviously clear to the voters that while an old and stale president can be replaced with a new one, Congress is a metastasized malignant tumor that cannot ever be fully excised, regardless of which party holds the congressional majority.

Considering the low opinion voters have about politicians -- and especially Congress -- is the best hope for the GOP to try to convince voters that only they have principles and that the Democrats don't? How likely is this to be believed? I think it is very unlikely, and while I don't think the GOP should abandon all talk of principle, neither should they miss the opportunity to remind voters that the balance of power is in their hands, and if they think Congress is malignant tumor that cannot be removed, the best alternative is to prevent it from getting stronger. In this respect, the Republicans' vintage anti-government philosophy is likely to have appeal, regardless of how sincere or principled it actually is in practice.

Republicans -- even if the voters assume their principles are bogus -- can nonetheless package themselves as a brake on congressional power, and I think they have an advantage in the next election if only they will use it. The numbers indicate Congress is vulnerable, and because Congress is Democratic, the Republicans are the anti-incumbency, anti-Congress party. If the Republican Party is in disarray, so much the better. Just run against Congress. This puts the Democrats on the defensive, for they can't very well run against themselves.

And as Nancy Pelosi has comically demonstrated, they can't run against Bush forever.

Sooner or later, someone might remember that this is a country that elected Bush twice.

posted by Eric on 05.16.09 at 09:45 AM










Comments

Mr. Obama seems to have hit a brick wall in approval ratings about March 6th. About 45 days after his inauguration. I wonder what happened.

M. Simon   ·  May 17, 2009 2:33 PM

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