Not The Realignment Rove Was Expecting
Graphic courtesy of the Pew Center
It wasn’t too long ago that mainstream reporters, book authors, and Beltway pundits were telling us after the 2004 election that the Rove-led GOP was on the verge of a realignment that would last for a generation, and that Democrats were endangered because of their alleged detachment from faith-based politics.
Increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies have improved the political landscape for the Democrats as the 2008 presidential campaign gets underway.
The study of the public's political values and attitudes by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press – the most recent in a series of such reports dating back to 1987 – finds a pattern of rising support since the mid-1990s for government action to help disadvantaged Americans. More Americans believe that the government has a responsibility to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves, and that it should help more needy people even if it means going deeper into debt.
These attitudes have undergone a major change since 1994, when the Republicans won control of Congress. In particular, 54% say the government should help more needy people, even if it adds to the nation's debt, up from just 41% in 1994. All party groups are now more supportive of government aid to the poor, though Republicans remain much less supportive than Democrats or independents if it means adding to the deficit.
More broadly, the poll finds that money worries are rising. More than four-in-ten (44%) say they "don't have enough money to make ends meet," up from 35% in 2002. While a majority continues to say they are "pretty well satisfied" with their personal financial situation, that number is lower than it has been in more than a decade.
In addition, an increasing number of Americans subscribe to the sentiment "today it's really true that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer." Currently, 73% concur with that sentiment, up from 65% five years ago. Growing concerns about income inequality are most apparent among affluent Americans; large percentages of lower-income people have long held this opinion.
Hello John Edwards and Barack Obama. It appears from reading this report that a 2008 Democrat who can offer a positive, forward-looking appeal to reconnect Americans with their government while vowing to not repeat the mistakes of the Bush years will have a winning message. The actions and messages of the Democratic Congress and our 2008 candidates can dovetail as a result. Democrats in Congress have a responsibility for 1) identifying the mistakes and illegalities of the GOP these last six years through oversight hearings; and 2) offering new legislative proposals aimed at steering the country away from the failed “me first/shoot first” policies from this White House. While this White House battles Congress and resists these efforts the next two years, our candidates in 2008 can use this as a backdrop to offer a vision of an executive branch that works with Congress on 1) reform; 2) rebuilding international alliances, and 3) pursuing economic policies that favor public interest over private gain and “Main Street over Wall Street”.