Friday, May 05, 2006

What Hath Bush Wrought?

A year ago, I wrote that after the Bush administration, "conservatives are going to wake up and realize that someone had a really great party on their credit card, and has left them a crushing bill." By that, I meant that the Bush administration seemed unswerving in its dedication to destroy every principle of traditional conservatism, and that the fallout from his presidency – debt, illegal aliens and corruption in Washington would - cripple conservatives’ future electoral chances. Apparently, only the timing was off. Conservatives have become all too aware of the Bush administration’s failure well before he leaves office. From immigration to the expansion of government to deficit financing to Wilsonian exercises in nation-building, Bush’s policies represent the antithesis of conservative ideals. Of course, those heavily invested in the Bush cult of personality – Fred Barnes, for example – don’t seem to care, and even endorse the jettisoning of conservative principles in unison with the president. But the combination of congressional corruption, the never-ending bloodshed in Iraq, soaring gas prices and the administration’s suicidal immigration policies finally appear to have infuriated conservatives straight back to reality.

Angry conservatives are driving the approval ratings of President Bush and the GOP-led Congress to dismal new lows, according to an AP-Ipsos poll that underscores why Republicans fear an Election Day massacre.

Six months out, the intensity of opposition to Bush and Congress has risen sharply, along with the percentage of Americans who believe the nation is on the wrong track.

The AP-Ipsos poll also suggests that Democratic voters are far more motivated than Republicans. Elections in the middle of a president's term traditionally favor the party whose core supporters are the most energized.

This week's survey of 1,000 adults, including 865 registered voters, found:

o Just 33 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, the lowest of his presidency. That compares with 36 percent approval in early April. Forty-five percent of self-described conservatives now disapprove of the president.

o Just one-fourth of the public approves of the job Congress is doing, a new low in AP-Ipsos polling and down 5 percentage points since last month. A whopping 65 percent of conservatives disapprove of Congress.

o A majority of Americans say they want Democrats rather than Republicans to control Congress (51 percent to 34 percent). That's the largest gap recorded by AP-Ipsos since Bush took office. Even 31 percent of conservatives want Republicans out of power.

o The souring of the nation's mood has accelerated the past three months, with the percentage of people describing the nation on the wrong track rising 12 points to a new high of 73 percent. Six of 10 conservatives say America is headed in the wrong direction.

Republican strategists said the party stands to lose control of Congress unless the environment changes unexpectedly.

The usual caveats apply here, of course. Polls can be manipulated by way of the question asked, the people sampled or the interpretation of the replies. However, the figures cited are consistent with other polls, even those conducted by GOP-friendly media outlets. Anecdotally, the poll’s results are consistent with the rumblings I hear with increasing frequency and venom amongst my conservative acquaintances.

Conservatives are seething for many good reasons, but I suspect immigration was the final straw. The president can’t even be straight with the American people about whether he favors singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in Spanish of English (answer: in English only, except at his own campaign events when he’s trying to woo Latino voters). The GOP needs to ask itself how it expects to win in November when it adopts policies (especially on immigration) that run directly opposite to what its constituents demand? If conservatives are angry about with the direction the GOP leadership and White House have been leading the country, a huge part of that anger is the fury of realizing they’ve been deceived – or have let themselves be deceived.

A massive GOP bloodbath in November now seems the only way to convince Republican office holders that they need to pay heed to their constituents. Nothing else appears effective.


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