Repeat After Me: Bush Has No Mandate
OK, we've had our two weeks of despair and gloating by the GOP, as well as the doom-and-gloom for the Democratic Party, courtesy of the Beltway Whores. Let's snap back into battle and reality.
For our GOP friends who like to have fun at our expense when they boast about Bush’s electoral “mandate” from having 49% of the voters against him, I give you Tuesday's CBS News/New York Times poll. In short, the poll shows that Bush has no mandate for any of his major policy initiatives, the Democrats have their largest advantage over the GOP in months, the spread between conservatives/moderates/liberals is unchanged from where it was months ago, and there is no wave of evangelical fervor nor support for it amongst the populace. What there is however is hope that Bush will do better in a second term but little certainty that he’ll make things better. And most of all, it appears that it just came down to the fact that John Kerry and his disappearing campaign in August weren’t what the voters wanted.
In other words, Bush and the Christian Right didn’t win it or sweep into office with a mandate to remake this country into an American Taliban state; it’s just that Kerry lost it.
At a time when the White House has portrayed Mr. Bush's 3.5-million-vote victory as a mandate, the poll found that Americans are at best ambivalent about Mr. Bush's plans to reshape Social Security, rewrite the tax code, cut taxes and appoint conservative judges to the bench. There is continuing disapproval of Mr. Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, with a plurality now saying it was a mistake to invade in the first place.
While Democrats, not surprisingly, were the staunchest opponents of many elements of Mr. Bush's second-term agenda, the concerns extended across party lines in some cases. Nearly two-thirds of all respondents - including 51 percent of Republicans - said it was more important to reduce deficits than to cut taxes, a central element of Mr. Bush's economic agenda.
Americans said they opposed changing the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, which Mr. Bush campaigned on in the final weeks of his campaign. A majority continue to support allowing either same-sex marriages or legally recognized domestic partnerships for gay people.
The public appears ambivalent about the two proposals that Mr. Bush has identified as his major domestic initiatives for a second term: rewriting the Social Security system and reshaping the tax code, including more tax cuts.
On the tax code, administration officials are discussing plans that would, among other things, lower the tax rate on higher-income Americans and eliminate some deductions. In the poll, more than 6 in 10 of the respondents said people with higher incomes should pay a greater proportion of their income in taxes; 3 in 10 said all income groups should pay the same proportion.
On Social Security, 45 percent said a proposal to permit people to invest their Social Security withholding money in private accounts was a bad idea; 49 percent said it was a good idea. The poll also found little confidence among Americans that Mr. Bush would assure the future solvency of the program: 51 percent said that Mr. Bush was unlikely to "make sure Social Security benefits are there for people like me."
In this poll, when allowed freely to name the issue that was most important in their vote, 6 percent chose moral values, although smaller numbers named issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. On a separate question in which voters were given a choice of nine issues, 5 percent chose abortion, 4 percent chose stem cell research and 2 percent chose same-sex marriage.
The top issue was the economy and jobs, which was cited by 29 percent of respondents.
By 48 percent to 40 percent, respondents said they believed four more years of a Bush presidency would divide the nation more than it would unite it.
For all the attention paid to the effort Mr. Bush made to increase his support from religious supporters, 31 percent of respondents said they thought that evangelical Christians had too much influence over the administration. By contrast, 66 percent said they thought big business had too much influence over the administration.
Finally, in one bit of presumably good news for a party that is looking for it, Americans now have a better opinion of the Democratic Party than of the Republican Party: 54 percent said they had a favorable view of Democrats, compared with 39 percent with an unfavorable view. By contrast, 49 percent have a favorable view of Republicans, compared with 46 percent holding an unfavorable one.
But if you want to see how easy it will be for Bush to overplay his hand and claim support for an agenda that doesn’t exist, read the detailed results in the poll.
Bush has a negative 4% on his handling of foreign policy, a negative 9% on his handling of the economy, a negative 15% on Iraq, a negative 4% on his ability to deal with a major international crisis, a negative 6% on his economic approach, and a negative 13% on his handling of Social Security. The GOP has only a 3% positive view/negative view spread, while the Democratic Party (remember us, the party that LOST the election?) has a whopping 54% favorable/39% unfavorable rating with voters.
Folks, things are not as bad as the Beltway conventional wisdom wants us to think, and the margin for error that Bush has is so small that any economic screw-up or downturn, or any miscalculation or overstep on Bush’s part will topple the cart. Let’s crawl out of our caves of disappointment and start acting like a party with a 15% positive/negative spread, and that voters think is correct on the issues.
Let’s get back into the game and start kicking some GOP tail. The only mandate Bush and the GOP have is to kiss my butt.