Democrats Need To Fashion An "America First" Message For November
USA Today notes in a piece this morning that Bush has embarked on a eight month campaign to talk up our mission in Iraq, with nothing to show for it in terms of his approval rating or the public’s assessments of his handling of the war.
In truth, as Richard Benedetto noted in his story, there was only one real audience for this effort, and that was the base. Bush has done all this heavy lifting over the last eight months just to keep the base from eroding. So after this eight-month campaign, Bush can claim he has moved his numbers up just outside the margin of error with only his base, and even then, other pollsters don’t show the same upward trend amongst the GOP that Gallup does. But is this a recipe for success in November, when vulnerable GOP incumbents will be hammered by their Democratic opponents for being a rubber stamp?
There are growing indications that Americans feel we need to turn our attention away from Bush's messianic "save the world" militarism, and back towards healing and strengthening ourselves here at home. And with the war tom-toms beating already for another venture into neighboring Iran as the 2006 diversion, Bush and Cheney are pushing an international, interventionist, and yes messianic culture upon America at a time when the war-weary public wants the government to turn its attention inward and back towards Main Street.
Sentiment has even turned against free trade and trade agreements, and pollsters are finding a growing mood of “minding our own business” amongst the public. It's plausible that after watching the Bush Administration’s bungling of Iraq and the war on terror, as well as the damage Bush has done to us internationally, the public feels we should stop trying to fix the world when we need some fixing here at home. Fiscal burdens play a part in this as well, as voters will ask why we are spending $6-8 billion a month in Iraq that we have to borrow from the Chinese, but can't seem to find the money to keep and grow good jobs here at home, to have a health care system that serves all of us, or to have an infrastructure that is safe and adequate for our needs. (This mindset is also evident in the turnaround in public opinion on issues like the Paris Hilton tax cut, where now the public is against making the estate tax cut permanent.)
I think a part of it is also stems from the aftermath of Katrina and the gnawing feeling that while Bush wants to remake the world to his liking, we can’t even take care of our own here at home or protect the jobs we have. This is making the public seek a several-year “coming home” period until they feel comfortable again with those in charge of the government to lead us again internationally. They clearly don’t feel that the Bush Administration is capable of competent, international leadership, and representing the public interest, so Democrats need to find a way to weave this critique into the narrative this fall as an argument for ending the GOP’s rubber-stamp Congress.
Sure, the GOP and their corporate masters will tag such an argument as "isolationist" or "defeatist" talk, but Democrats need to point out that there is nothing wrong with fixing America first before we try and fix the world at the end of a gun barrel on someone else's credit card.